India has appealed to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for help with its shrimp exports, the light of Japan’s rejection of consignments, citing a high level of ethoxyquin. Japan has stalled imports of Indian shrimp and currently holds 150 containers of the frozen product at its ports. Though Japan had lifted the ban, exports have dropped heavily on account of the increase in the number of rejections. This has hit aquaculture farmers and exporters in Odisha and West Bengal. But 60 per cent of the black tiger shrimp produced in these regions is exported to Japan.
Since Japan lowered the acceptable limit of ethoxyquin, an antioxidant used in shrimp feed, in shrimp, the country had started rejecting containers from June. Japanese authorities found the level of ethoxyquin in some shrimp to be in the 0.02-0.04 ppm range, whereas the newly introduced health standards tolerate levels as high as 0.01 ppm only.
India raised the issue with the sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) committee of the WTO, as the commerce ministry is of the view that the new standards that have been imposed are ‘unscientific and unjustified’. India is not filing a case against Japan at the WTO at this point but it hopes that bringing up the issue at the SPS committee will pressure Japan to respond favourably. This would benefit not just India but also countries like Vietnam that are being affected by the same regulations.
“There are other countries like Vietnam that are facing similar entry barriers in Japan for their shrimp. We hope to generate enough pressure at the WTO forum to force Japan to reconsider (its decision). If this doesn’t work, we could consider a formal case against this restrictive measure,” a commerce ministry official said.