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Indian Seafoods Once Again Under EU Scrutiny


INDIA - After the catch certificate issue, resolved successfully a few months back, Indias seafood exports to the European Union (EU) are facing a fresh challenge in the form of mandatory testing of all aquaculture exports for antibiotic residues.

Based on the reports of the technical committee on seafood imports to the Euro Zone, the EU Health Authority has recommended checking of at least 20 per cent of the aquaculture products imported from India for various tests such as antibiotic residue and micro-organisms.

This could lead to huge delays in the Indian shipment reaching the end consumers and a fall in exports to the EU, officials at Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI) told the Financial Express .

The EU is one of the largest importers of Indian aquaculture products and is an important market. According to the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) sources, aquaculture exports to the EU account for almost 32 per cent (in value) of total seafood exports.

The EU has been tightening import norms based on environmental and health concerns. India was forced to implement a system to track all fishes exported to the European Union with the latter insisting on catch certificates for all fish imports from January 2010.

The EU believes that the new regulation would help reduce illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), based in Brussels, is responsible for ensuring the safety of food imported into the EU and has the mandate to ban imports, which do not meet its standards. After its biennial audit of Indian seafood testing laboratories, the FVO, in a letter to the Indian government said the Indian system of residue monitoring was structurally flawed and ineffective.

The FVO was also disturbed as the concerns raised by previous audit teams (2003 and 2006) were not addressed by the Indian authorities.

Leena Nair, chairperson of the Marine Products Export Development Authority, said the issue was a challenge and a bit problematic. “Currently, only random sampling is done on exports consignments and compulsory checking of 20 per cent of the volume of the consignments would lead to unnecessary delays and higher costs,” she said. She feels that the EU decision is unnecessary, as the Indian authorities are aware of the residual problems.