31 Jan, 2018
European Union-India Shrimp Dialogue organized in association with the Embassy of the Netherlands wherein Marine Products Export Development Authority officials had discussions on several topics regarding the Indian seafood industry. The session was part of the three-day event India International Seafood Show 2018 organised jointly by the MPEDA and Seafood Export Association of India (SEAI) from January 27 to 29 in Goa. Willem Van Der Pijl, representing the Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal (STIP), moderated the discussion.
Chairman of MPEDA, A Jayathilak said “India urged the European Union not to ban or blacklist any seafood exporter immediately if they found a problem with just one consignment as it worked against all stakeholders in the industry. EU should issue a warning to the exporter and give it reasonable time to remove the inadequacies before delisting the company. Instant blacklisting was unjust as this also destroyed the exporters’ reputation built over several years and jeopardized their huge investments in the cost-intensive business, besides the livelihood of lakhs of farmers.
Jayathilak described as unfair the EU’s decision to increase the sample size from 10 per cent to 50 per cent for testing seafood consignments from India, while keeping it at 10 per cent for other countries. Supporting Dr Jayathilak’s statement, SEAI General Secretary Elias Sait said the sample size was being kept at 10 per cent even for Vietnam and Bangladesh, whose consignments had also failed food safety tests. Both Jayathilak and Sait said the first India-EU Shrimp Dialogue provided a forum for a ‘free, frank and candid’ discussion aimed at finding a solution to the problems being faced by all stakeholders.
Counselor for health and food safety for the EU delegation to India, Wojciech Dziowrski countered this view citing the number of samples tested positive from India and these two countries. But Sait said these countries could not be compared in terms of numbers of failed samples as India’s volume of export was high and the sample size was five times higher.
Export Inspection Council (EIC) Director S K Saxena regretted that the twin blow instant ban and 50 per cent sample size was in place despite the fact that the quality control mechanism had been tightened further in the last two years. Some of the blacklisting was done on the basis of miniscule variations from the food quality benchmark, he said, adding that he wanted relisting to take place in suitable cases within a short time.
At another technical session, Saxena said India was in the process of asking EU to relist wrongly delisted companies and allow them to resume business. He made the statement in response to concerns raised by seafood associations of Kerala and West Bengal that a number of companies, delisted by EU due to wrong testing by labs in importing countries, were suffering for no fault of theirs.
A number of consignments rejected by importing countries in Europe, for allegedly containing banned antibiotics and chemical substances beyond permissible limits, were found to be in order during further tests conducted in Indian laboratories, these associations said.
A representative of farmers involved in shrimp farming suggested that quality tests should be conducted at the farm level rather than when the processing was over, adding that farmers were blamed even in cases where the processing sector was at fault. Saxena suggested that exporters convince the importing companies in EU to get the failed samples tested in one more lab to prevent wrong rejections.