Aquaculture for all

Changing Compliance for Exported Fishery Products: a Developing Country Perspective

Technology & equipment Economics Politics +2 more

The fisheries sector in Tanzania has many challenges, such as maintaining market shares of products, little ability to control fish prices in foreign markets, and the high cost of modern technology in the fishing industry, write G.F. NanyaroDirector of Fisheries, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Tanzania. This report was published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation.


Fishery products from developing countries entering the global market—especially the European Union market—have to comply with frequently amended Directives and Regulations. Resources in terms of funds and materials, and human capacity constraints in terms of staff numbers and skills, restrict the compliance ability of developing countries in the global market. Most fish sales benefits are used to maintain market compliance.


The Tanzanian mainland has a total surface area of 945 000 km2 and an estimated population of 35 million (Census data, 2002). The agricultural sector dominates, accounting for 56 per cent of total exports (in value terms) and employing 90 per cent of the work force. Industry accounts for 15 per cent of GDP and is mainly limited to processing agricultural products and light consumer goods.

Tanzania has three major transborder water bodies—three great lakes of Africa, namely Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyasa—and borders the Indian Ocean. The country also has diverse river systems, numerous wetlands and other minor water bodies.

Tanzania lands between 350 000 and 400 000 tonne per annum, and exports about 20 per cent of this. Major markets are Australia, the European Union (EU) and Japan. The fisheries sector provides employment to about 2 million people.


Although the fisheries sector in Tanzania supports the national economy and population in terms of food security and employment, it is faced by several challenges:

  • Maintaining market share for our products.
  • Accommodating ever changing new market legal requirements.
  • Stiff competition from other producers and from substitute products.
  • Retaining customer satisfaction.
  • Inadequate information on the size of the wild marine resource.
  • Continuing decrease in landings.
  • Little or no ability to influence fish prices in foreign markets.
  • The high cost of modern technology in the fishing industry.
  • Domination of the sector by artisanal and small-scale fishers.

Compliance For Fishery Products

Fishery products from Tanzania, like any other products that enter the global market, and especially the EU market, have to complying with the EU Directives as set in:

  • Council Directive 91/493/EEC of 22 July 1991, which laid down the health conditions for the production and the placing on the market of fishery products; and Council Directive 92/48/EEC, laying down minimum hygiene rules applicable to fishery products caught on board vessels.
  • In 2002, new EU Regulation (EC) 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council laid down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety was introduced and came into force on 15 January 2005. In addition, four Council Regulations on Food Hygiene were introduced. These replaced Council Directives 91/493/EEC and 92/48/EEC. These are:
  • Council Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 of 29 April 2004 on hygiene of foodstuffs;
  • Regulation (EC) No. 853/2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for the hygiene of foodstuffs;
  • Regulation (EC) No 854/2004 laying down specific rules for the organization of official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption; and
  • Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 on official control performed to ensure verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules. There are also additional supporting legislations, including:
  • Commission Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005 of 15 November on Microbiological Criteria for Foods;
  • Commission Regulation (EC) No. 466/2001 of 08 March 2001 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs; and
  • Commission Regulation (EC) No. 2074/2005 of 05 December 2005 laying down implementing measures for certain products under Regulation (EC) No. 853/2004 and for the organization of official controls under Regulation (EC) No. 854/2004 and Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004, derogating from Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 and amending Regulations (EC) Nos. 853/2004 and 854/2004

Appreciating the importance of protecting consumers, Tanzania embarked on a range of programmes to ensure that the country attains full compliance or gains an equivalent status with the importing countries. A very frustrating aspect of complying is coping with the ever-changing directives and regulations.

Effect Of Changing Compliance

Full compliance for a developing country like Tanzania itself is a problem, because it calls for investment in human resources, infrastructure and equipment. All these need to be catered for from meagre financial resources.

In addition, the time required for transformation to comply is relatively short, since some requirements need to be sourced from outside the fisheries sector, ministry and region, or from abroad.

We have indeed invested heavily to comply with directives 493/91/EEC and 92/48/ EEC in terms of training of operators in the fish establishments, fishers and officials, and in infrastructure improvement. However, as noted earlier, there have been frequent changes in and amendments to the various regulations and directives, which developing countries, such as Tanzania, find extremely difficulty to cope with, unless some other important activities are forgone.

Some problems caused by the changing directives are considered below.

Difficulty in understanding new concepts

Changing directives and regulations requires thorough understanding of the concepts by both operators and control officials. This requires training of the Competent Authority (CA), industry operators, fishers and any stakeholders concerning their responsibility and understanding of the new Directives and Regulations. This takes time for adoption, and in many cases introduction of anything new faces resistance by implementers.

For example, EU Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002 on Food Law introduced with new concepts, including Traceability, Risk Analysis, Management, Precautionary Principle, Rapid Alert System, Crisis Management and Emergencies, all of which required understanding of both the concept and its implementation. This implied the need for financial resources, knowledgeable human resources and time, which required re-scheduling of activities.

Cost of review of National Fisheries Act and Regulations

Following changes in the EU Food Law and amendment of several EU Regulations, we were forced to review the national Fisheries Regulations. It is difficulty for a developing country like ours to cope with the pace at which developing countries change their legislation. Legal procedures take longer to implement in our country, as the officials must first be imbued with the knowledge of what needs to be changed. Gaps identified must be discussed through being tabled at a number of consultative meetings at different levels. The Draft Act and Regulation are then submitted to the Minister, and later to Parliament for endorsement. This is costly and time consuming. But in practice, once a Regulation is passed in the EU, it is supposed to be promptly adopted and in operation in the developing country, with only a short period of grace being given. For example, Tanzania was inspected last year (2006) based on the new hygiene package and the supporting regulations, such as the microbiological criteria (2073/2005) and implementing measure (2074/2005), both of which were still new to us.

Compliance with the new directives and regulations

Changing legislation in developed countries compels developing countries to invest massively in terms of changing infrastructure and facilities. For example, installation of hot water for hand washing was not mandatory in Directive 493/91/EEC; however, it became a requirement in Regulation 853/2004. This is a costly requirement and problematic for the least developed countries to comply with, as it involves reconstruction. This has a negative effect as the establishment must stop production activities while the requisite changes are introduced.

In parallel there have been problems in understanding concepts and establishing definitive universal interpretations of some clauses, such as:

  • “Enough space” — a subjective term and depends on individual understanding;
  • “Hot water” in the processing room for tropical countries like ours; and
  • the “equivalency” concept. This is confusing, especially when FVO Inspectors request that everything in the EU Regulations must feature in any third party legislation. For example: the poisonous family Gempilidae does not exist in our waters, but the FVO inspector insisted that, for equivalency reasons, this family must be included in our revised regulation. While appreciating the philosophy of new regulations being founded on logical thinking, providing room for the implementer to decide based on scientific reasoning in some case seems to not apply.

Difficult in compliance with market requirements

National compliance with Directives, Regulations and International agreements is a necessity for global market access. However, some trading blocks impose stricter regulatory requirements and give short time frames to comply. For example, Tanzania was inspected by the EU veterinary inspectors last year (2006). The objective of the audit was to check the performance of the official control, based on Regulations (EC) No. 852/2004; (EC) No. 853/2004; (EC) No. 854/2004; (EC) No. 882/2004; (EC) No. 2073/2005; and (EC) No. 2074/2005.

The first time frame for adapting to changes was not insufficient, and it becomes difficult and expensive for a developing country to cope with the requirements to analyse the wide range of parameters. For example, it is mandatory to analyse for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organophosphorus compounds (OPs), organochlorines (OCs), Pyrethroids, dioxin and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the environment in an accredited laboratory. This is expensive and costly, as we have to pay external laboratories for the various tests done. For example, Tanzania uses the services of the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) to test for pesticide residues in fish and the environment. Veterinary drugs, dioxin and PAHs are tested at Chemiphar laboratory in Uganda, which also sometimes subcontracts to an external laboratory in Europe. All this despite the fact that our environment in reality is not that much polluted. This is costly to developing countries with meagre budgets.

Cost of building capacity

In order to comply with the new directives, capacity has to be built amongst officials and operators, possibly involving new recruitment, and in imparting new skills and technology, and improvement of infrastructure in the processing establishments and laboratory.

For the Tanzanian case, in the long-term plan for improvement of laboratory facilities, the new infrastructure put in place has cost the country about US$1 million. The microbiological wing is operational. The chemical section needs about US$800 000 for the purchase and installation of necessary equipment. This is a relatively expensive investment, but it is mandatory for verification purposes.

Budget constraints

Funds from the Government are limited to finance capacity building activities so as to comply with the continuously changing laws, directives and decisions from the importing markets. The Tanzanian Government has set a Medium-Term Expenditure Framework budget system whereby only those activities that have been approved are eligible for funding. Any request for funding out of the approved budget is difficult to push through. However, for the case of compliance with the changing EU legislation, the government has had to cancel some of planned activities to accommodate the requirements of the new legislation, solely to maintain market access.


Changes are inevitable, and welcome in as much as they are for consumer health benefit. The problem is that the cost of compliance is high for a developing country like Tanzania, to the extent that most of the income from exports goes to maintain market access. In real terms, little is left for growth. The end result is therefore that the expected benefits from this trade are not realized by some developing countries. This vicious circle can only be broken if the importing countries develop dialogue with developing countries on how to implement necessary changes in a manner that benefits both parties.

April 2009

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