A two-member European Union team today started evaluating the control systems governing the production of fishery products intended to be exported to the EU nations, in the backdrop of widespread speculation that the EU is considering a ban on Indian shipments. The delegation which is in Odisha since November 21 comprises Markus Brunner, Team Leader, European Commission, DG Health and Food Safety and Maria Lyons Alcantara, member of the commission along with representatives of the Exports Inspection Council (EIC) and Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA). None of the exporters is keen to comment on the issue. Tara Ranjan Patnaik, chairman of Falcon Marine Exports Ltd, the country's largest exporter, termed their visit a routine one. The visit assumes significance as 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. 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. Exporters in the states said on the conditions of the anonymity a meeting arranged for the delegation by the seafood exporters was declined by the guests. The team has already the fishing harbor in Paradip and also the processing units of Falcon Marine Exports and Shimpo Seafoods in Bhubaneswar and farms in Astaranga in Puri district. They are expected to visit the units of Magnum Seafood Pvt Ltd and have a meeting with officials of the state fisheries and animal resources development department.
The audit team is also slated to visit Chennai to inspect the testing labs.An official of EIC declined to comment on the visit, citing sensitivity of the matter. Last year, the EU had strengthened its inspection norms for aquaculture products sent from India. Earlier, the norm mandated 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. Ivan Bartolo, regulatory affairs advisor at Seafish, representing the UK seafood industry had told Business Standard that the EU team will evaluate the performance of competent authorities and other authorized 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, he had said.