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EDB website to promote fish exports

The Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) launched a website, www.fishtrade.com last week. Besides other benefits, exporters could tell overseas buyers what they have on offer and be informed of the needs of buyers. Coinciding, a workshop on 'trade safety requirements and seafood marketing' got under way.

FAO representative in Sri Lanka and the Maldives Dr. Pote Chumsri said that this database and workshop were the outcomes of two FAO regional projects.

The other being, 'strengthen national capabilities in seafood trade policy, including risk assessment and traceability.' These workshops were held in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Solomon Islands and Thailand. These projects entailed $376,000, allocated by FAOs technical cooperation program.

Dr. Chumsri said that trade of fish and seafood is an important foreign currency earner in many South and South East Asian nations, in particular. In recent years, aquaculture has emerged as a significant factor inside the seafood export-processing sector.

The traditional aquaculture shrimp exports are increasingly supplemented by a wide range of fin-fish special as tilapia, sea bass, grouper, breams and other like species, aided by technological developments in culture, hatchery and feed technology.

The future of the seafood trade in these countries would have an ever increasing dependence on aquaculture production and would also be characterised by a broad range of species.

Dr. Chumsri said that the growing competition for markets will require the industry to be very competitive, pricewise and in product characteristics. While importing countries apply new trade measures, it is imperative and urgent to learn about the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements and how seafood trade fits into the overall framework. The risk of falling behind, is that Asian countries could lose market access and foreign currency earnings.

Dr. Chumsri said that trade in seafood contributes to the national economy of most South and South-East Asian nations while European countries are their largest importers. The EU had also put into force a new regulation on the hygiene of foodstuffs and a directive on mandatory labelling of all compound ingredients in foodstuff that for exporting countries might result in a non-tariff barrier to trade.

The para export countries are aware of the importance of addressing food safety issues but lack knowledge on how to undertake risk analysis and achieve full chain tractability of fishery products required prior to entering EU markets.

Third World countries will have to label their products with clear indications on commercial designation, production methods and catch area of the fish. Adequate measures to respond to these new requirements need to be taken by seafood-processing industries in export countries.

Dr. Chumsri said that each country participating in this TCP project has a competent authority for Quality Control Systems, and all are approved by the EU.

These competent authorities are either based in their directorate of fisheries or in the Ministry of Health. These authorities are well established and have a long history of controlling their export industries. In recent years, these nations have been handling their HACCP plans and its implementation.

Dr. Chumsri said that the competent authorities have a generally training mechanism that pass on training materials to all officers working in the authority.

The envisaged computerised network on risk assessment will enable all participating countries to have a fully-fledged risk assessment system, capable of countervailing any risk assessment enforcement of major importing countries, Dr. Chumsri said.

The main objective of this FAO funded Regional TCP project is to enhance the capability of the countries in the Asia-Pacific region to deal with new requirements of seafood trade with special reference to WTO agreements, risk assessment and traceability of fishery products.

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