THE Scrap Metal Federation should by this Friday get answers from Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton about his Government's plans for the trade.
The assurance was given by Hylton following a meeting with disgruntled members of the trade yesterday at his offices in Kingston.
Members of the federation have been up in arms about the conditions laid down by the administration for the trade to restart exports, with the main bone of contention being the Cabinet approved concept of a central loading site.
According to the group, while in principle members were not averse to the concept, the Government should in the interim assess a small number of temporary sites for use as multi-user 'regional' sites. They are also pressing the industry minister to reveal the timeline for the restarting of exports, claiming that "many members are now in a state of financial ruin".
Hylton, in a statement yesterday, said the ministry along with the Customs Department, the police, and Factories Corporation of Jamaica would review the proposals, with a view to making a submission to Cabinet — provided the proposal meets certain minimum criteria.
He said the team would also begin the process of assessing the existing sites to assess their suitability in the event that Cabinet approves the concept of multi-user sites.
In the meantime, the industry minister said while the trade is a valuable source of foreign exchange and provides significant levels of employ-ment, "there has to be significant strengthening of the existing system and the plugging of loopholes". He added that "many Jamaicans are in fear of the reopening of the industry because of the perceived risks resulting from the actions of unscrupulous scrap metal traders".
Hylton has, in the meanwhile, urged the members of the federation to embrace the thrust of the new regulations which are put in place to protect the entire industry while further encouraging the membership to play a greater role "in protecting the industry from unscrupulous players who tarnish the reputation of all scrap metal traders".
Yesterday's meeting was initiated by the minister's office on the heels of last week's protest by members of the federation who are lobbying for the immediate reopening of the trade.
The scrap metal trade was shut down by the previous Government following widespread vandalism, which saw companies and individuals losing valuable items to scrap metal thieves. The National Water Commission was among the big losers. Several bridges were also scrapped by the thieves.