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A high-level delegation from the European Union (EU) is slated to visit India between November 21 and 28 to reportedly inspect the quality of the aquaculture products here by visiting the harbours and processing factories located in the country.
There is widespread speculation that the EU is considering a ban, citing quality issues, especially the presence of antibiotics in Indian shipments. EU is the third largest market for India accounting for about 18 per cent of the country's seafood exports valued at $5.7 billion.
An Indian export agency confirmed the arrival of the team but declined to comment further, citing it a sensitive matter.
EU is seriously worried over the use of antibiotics in Indian shrimps- a fact that has surfaced continuously in its findings. It is also dissatisfied with the response it got from the Indian authorities and is, thus, considering a ban.
Last year, the EU had strengthened its inspection norms for aquaculture products sent from India. Earlier, the norm was testing samples from at least 10 per cent of the consignments, which was enhanced to 50 per cent in 2016.
Some exporters even fear a ban.
The EU team's visit to India is expected to entail an inspection of the overall framework related to the control of using veterinary medicines. Ivan Bartolo, regulatory affairs advisor at Seafish, representing the UK seafood industry, said: "The EU team will evaluate the performance of competent authorities and other authorised entities in their implementation of official controls concerning residues and contaminants in live animals and animal products eligible for export to the EU. It will also inspect products to ensure that they do not contain residues of veterinary medicinal products, pesticides and contaminants at concentrations in excess of EU maximum limits." Meanwhile, officials at the Seafood Exporters Association of India say that the inspection would indeed be good for India as it will clear the air with regard to quality of exports from the country. Even if problems surface during the inspection, officials say findings are likely to compel Indian exporters to improve their quality of shipments, as per international standards.