'EU shouldn't ban or blacklist seafood exporters over consignment issues'

Indian authorities have urged the European Union (EU) neither to ban nor blacklist any seafood exporter immediately if they have found problems with just one consignment as this 'extreme' step would work against the interests of all the stakeholders in the industry.

"EU should issue a warning to the exporter, and give them reasonable time to remove the inadequacies before de-listing the company," said Chairman of Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) A Jayathilak.

Jayathilak said this on Monday while chairing the EU-India Shrimp Dialogue organised in association with the Embassy of the Netherlands.

The session was part of the three-day 21st India International Seafood Show 2018 held in Goa and organised jointly by MPEDA and Seafood Export Association of India (SEAI) from January 27 to 29.

Instant blacklisting unjust

Instant blacklisting is unjust as this also destroyed the exporters' reputation built over several years and jeopardised their huge investments in the cost-intensive business, besides affecting the livelihood of millions of farmers, Jayathilak said.

EU, which is the third-largest market for Indian seafood exporters, has regularly been complaining about the presence of antibiotics in Indian shipments.

In November 2017, an EU delegation was tasked to audit the control systems put in place in order to govern the production of exportable fishery products in India. He reportedly exuded satisfaction on the quality of shrimp production.

40% increase in sample size demanded

The MPEDA chairman also described EU's decision to increase the sample size from 10 per cent to 50 per cent for testing the seafood consignments from India unfair as the same was kept at 10 per cent for other exporting countries.

The sample size was being kept at 10 per cent even for Vietnam and Bangladesh whose consignments had also failed the food safety tests, said SEAI General Secretary Elias Sait while endorsing MPEDA's pleas.

Wojciech Dziowrski, counsellor for health and food safety for the EU delegation to India, countered this view saying a certain number of samples from India and these two countries tested positive.

However, Sait argued that these countries could not be compared in terms of failed sample numbers as India's volume of export was quite high and the sample size was five times higher.

Export Inspection Council (EIC) Director S K Saxena said 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 past two years.

Some of the blacklistings were done on the basis of minuscule variations from the food quality benchmark, Saxena added.

He also wanted the relisting to take place in suitable cases within a short time.

Saxena said that India is in the process of asking EU to relist the wrongly de-listed companies and let them resume their business.

He made the statement in response to concerns raised by seafood associations of Kerala and West Bengal that a number of companies, de-listed 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.

Saxena suggested that exporters convince the importing companies in EU to get the failed samples tested in one more lab to prevent wrong rejections.

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.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel