The five affected units account for 90 per cent of the value-added products. These units were showpiece factories, and 17 other export houses have been placed under compulsory consignment inspection before export.
Choice Company MD Jose Thomas, who was also past president of the Kerala chapter of the Seafood Exporters Association of India, said they have informally decided on a boycott move of the European market.
The move to take action against the five companies comes as a result of the recent finding of antibiotic residue in a few consignments exported to EU and their rejection.
Mr Thomas said as far as the EU market is concerned, there is no chance for facility for re-inspection or recall. Interestingly, 80 per cent of the consignments sent back were material caught from the sea. The presence of antibiotics in such consignments was inexplicable and improbable. Also, in case there was antibiotic residue, the material would have been destroyed and not sent back.
The Choice group had such a rejection in February and the consignment was reinspected and re-exported. He also said there is no facility in the country to inspect the material as per EU norms. The EU standard level of antibiotics is 0.3 parts per billion. The EIA did not have the equipment to test this, he added. Such equipment will need an investment of over Rs 2 crore and it will not be possible for the individual units to have such a facility. The only unit that has such equipment is HLL which also incidentally came under the ban.
The share of the European market in the Rs 6,000-crore industry is a mere Rs 500 crore. There is no dearth of orders. As far as the Choice group is concerned, only 1 per cent of its exports goes to Europe. The industry after the EU ban in the mid-90s has invested nearly 200 crore in upgrading the facilities to meet the EU norms.
In Kerala, 47 units were upgraded at a cost of over Rs 70 crore. Incidentally, during his visit to Kerala last week, the commerce secretary had visited the Choice factory and was all praise for it, he added.