The EU is a major destination for Indian seafood with almost a quarter share in the total export revenue. Exports to EU were on hold for the last ten days with the state-run agency in a notification issued on March 15 and effective the same day decided to stop granting certificates and permits for unregistered vessels.
Interestingly, Indian fishing vessels are registered with the respective state Governments and the Marine Exports Product Development Authority (MPEDA) for various assistance and so far not a single vessel has registered with the agency.
The decision was taken suddenly without any notice. Exporters were caught unaware. Exports to EU is very important, Anwar Hashim, managing director of Abad Fisheries, and former president of the Seafood Exporters Association of India said. The health certificate from the agency is mandatory for the European ports to entertain Indian seafood export consignments, while Q Certificate is needed for the Indian customs to release the consignments for exports. Not a single one of the Keralas fleet of 6000 mechanised vessels is registered with the agency. Our understanding was that they would inspect vessels and landing centers, but would not make registration with them mandatory, he added. According to reports, there are more than 60,000 fishing boats or vessels engaged in fishing activity in India and the fish landing centers also run into thousands.
It would be very tough for our vessels to meet the standards set by EU. Some of the requirements are not practical and would add to the cost, Hashim said. He also feels that the agency could have asked for registration with state governments or Marine Exports Product Development Authority (MPEDA), as EIC does not have the required staff and facilities for registration and regulation.
Exports to the EU zone is becoming high risk due to the successive regulations imposed by the EU authorities, sources from the Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI) said. In 2011, EU had imposed catch certificate and mandatory testing of 20% of all aquaculture products. Inability to appeal against European Union (EU) health authorities rejection of seafood consignments and alerts on Indian seafood exporters has made EU a high-risk destination, sources added. Irrational and binding decisions of the EU health authorities at Brussels and EU veterinary inspectors at destination ports often lead to higher expenses and loss for the exporters, sources added.