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Indian shrimp exports to undergo 50 per cent inspection by European Union
Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Shraddha Joshi, Mumbai
Indian shrimp exporters will now have to face a stringent inspection process in European Union markets. The EU has taken the decision following detection of prohibited substances in several seafood consignments for the last three years.

Under the new EU inspection regime, at least 50% of every shrimp consignment, instead of the earlier 10%, will be subjected to a detailed verification process.

Explaining the change, a source from a public service body under ministry of commerce states, “In RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) portal EU has recently added a new category where there are over 100 notifications for shrimps. Between January 2011 and March 2017, there were 57 notifications for shrimp on the EU's  (RASFF) web portal for the presence of prohibited substances such as nitrofuran and furazolidone, and presence of chemicals such as oxytetracycline above the maximum residue level (MRL).”

The source adds, “33 of these notifications are between January 2014 and March 2017. Some 28 notifications were categorised as ‘serious’ risk, which implies that the product would be a health risk, if introduced in the EU.”

A notification in the official journal of the EU, claims, “The results of analytical tests undertaken by official control laboratories demonstrate that the level of compliance of aquaculture products from India intended for human consumption as regards to presence of residues of chloramphenicol, tetracycline, oxytetracycline, chlortetracycline and metabolites of nitrofurans is unsatisfactory.”

While EU has its reasons to beef up its inspection process, some of the Indian exporters are looking at it as a pressure tactic to milch benefits. Nobert Karikkassery, president, Seafood Exporters Association of India, Kerala region, observes, “The traders feel that the measures adopted by the EU on Indian shrimp exports are merely pressure tactics to obtain some benefits from India for EU trade.”

Speaking on similar lines, though more about the monetary impact of the move, a company spokesperson from Seafood Express, Maharashtra, states, “Measure adopted by the EU will affect the Indian exports. Exporters have to maintain the quality as a top priority. Last season, many boxes carrying shrimp were returned from South Africa as the consignment were found to be contaminated. With such stringent measures adopted by EU will add on to the cost of export procedure.”

However, showing a traverse route to the exports, the spokesperson adds, “Even if this issue remains unsettled, there are always other options available. Exporters can opt for other countries for export, indirectly. For example, Indian shrimp can be initially exported to Vietnam, where it will be re-processed for exports to EU and other countries.”

Meanwhile, Chetan Trivedi, proprietor, Nova Sea Foods, Gujarat, fears that the move will cause dip in exports. He states,“The decision taken to ensure safer exports by EU will surely reduce the quantity of exports. Even though the labs and inspection procedure being up to mark, many exporters are still unaware of this move which took place in October 2016.”

Background
Earlier, the EU Commission decided that at least 10% of the consignment of aquaculture products from India be tested for the presence of pharmacologically active substances like chloramphenicol, tetracycline, oxytetracycline and chlortetracycline and of metabolites of nitrofurans.

However, in March 2014, the EU inspection service had asked India to adhere to its guidelines as India's additional pre-harvest and pre-export testing programmes showed unsatisfactory results.

In October 2016, the EU in a move to ensure safer exports, adopted a decision that at least 50% of consignments presented for import to be tested. Making it more stringent to the seafood exports, the EU decided to draw samples from each consignment of aquaculture products from more than one established origin.

The measures provided in this decision were in accordance with the opinion of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed under the EU.

Finding Solutions
In order to resolve trade issue and maintain ease of doing business, a source from the industry, suggests, “Despite the fact the DGSANTE (the European Commission Directorate-General Health and Food Safety) has placed a representative in India who is trying to resolve trade issues. There are cases of collaboration and it has worked. For example, the ban on eggplant has now been removed. Our study on agriculture exports to key markets shows that agencies involved in exports to key markets have to build trust and cordial relationship rather than finding faults with policymakers in those markets.”

Experts suggest that a thorough investigation of the inspection process in India should be conducted. There is a need to address this issue with finding solutions. For example, EU may recognise selected exporters and these operators based on their past quality of exports can directly register with the EU and go through the EU inspection process for a year. Further, if the EU is satisfied then EU may be requested to relax the requirement for 50% checks through direct registration of exporters.

Frozen shrimp has always been one of the major items for export in terms of quantity and value, accounting for a share of 69.21% as a prime product demand by other countries.
 
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