Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Sep 26, 2002
Standards & Benchmarks
Agri-Biz & Commodities - Aquaculture
Seafood units discuss ban with Ministry officials
KOCHI, Sept. 25
REPRESENTATIVES of the five seafood units banned by the Export Inspection Agency (EIA) from production and export of seafood met with the officials of the Commerce Ministry today exploring avenues to sort out the current EU export imbroglio.
The delegation is slated to meet the Commerce Secretary tomorrow. The delegation included Mr Elias Sait, all-India President of Seafood Exporters Association of India, Mr A.J. Tharakan of Amalgam Foods, Mr Rahim of Integrated Rubian and representatives of Victoria Marines and the HLL plant.
``The need of the hour is for the Ministry and the seafood industry to work together to find a permanent and lasting solution to the issue which is currently holding the industry hostage,'' sources told Business Line.
In case no agreeable solution is reached, the seafood exporters propose to call for a strike across the country for the immediate stoppage of production and export of cultured shrimp to the EU, the sources said.
``We will give them a week to work out a solution or else we propose to call for a strike. In fact, we will only commence exporting to the EU after the Indian Government and Brussels have a dialogue over this,'' an exporter said. In fact, it is reliably learnt that following an assurance by the Indian Government to ensure stringent quality norms, EU officials at a recent meeting in Brussels have indicated their willingness not to put India on the `alert' list.
When contacted, sources at Integrated Rubian, one of the banned export houses, said that about 3-4 containers were ready for immediate export to the EU. "We will take a hit of around Rs 3-4 crore on these consignments alone,'' a source said.
On the other hand, Mr Jose Thomas, Managing Director, Choice Canning, in a statement said that their exports to the EU contributed to around one per cent of total exports i.e. in terms of value and quantity.
``The board will meet shortly to take a decision on whether to stop exports to the EU completely and to also shut down our offices in London and EU,'' he said.
The rejections of these five units in the EU were mainly for antibiotic traces in consignments during the May-July period this year when the EU first started testing for antibiotics.
The consignments were tested using a high-pressure liquid chromatography with mass spectrometer (HPLC-MS) to detect traces of antibiotics to the extent of 0.1 parts per billion. Installing the equipment would mean an investment of Rs 2.5 crore.
According to sources, exporters use private laboratories like SGS in India to conduct antibiotic tests for every consignment prior to shipment to EU. ``It is the responsibility of the Government of India to set up such testing facilities. When the industry pays 0.8 per cent as cess to MPEDA i.e. roughly around Rs 54 crore annually, why is there no quality enforcement on their part?'' questioned an irate exporter.
In fact, even today only the HLL research laboratory has HPLC-MS calibrated to EU testing standards to do a confirmatory test for antibiotics. The EIA pilot test house at Mumbai has a HPLC without MS, which will not give confirmatory tests for antibiotic. See also Page 11
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