An audit note from the European Union (EU) has expressed overall satisfaction with residue control in the Indian aquaculture sector. This calms earlier worry regarding a possible ban on export of Indian marine products.
The audit was in April, conducted by the directorate-general for health and food safety of the European Commission, executive arm of the EU. This was to examine adherence and reliability of the guarantees provided by residue monitoring plans already approved by it for aquaculture products, eggs and honey.
These are, says its report, being "elaborated in a timely fashion and implemented as planned and, with regard to aquaculture, are supported by extensive additional pre-harvest and pre-export testing programmes".
However, it also warns: "Effectiveness of the plans is, nevertheless, weakened by the fact that many pharmacologically active substances available on the market are not currently included in the scope of testing for the three commodities. Further, the information on laboratory testing and capability provided in the plans submitted to the Commission did not reflect what was happening in reality."
While there has been an improvement in the residue control system in India, the testing should better reflect the availability of veterinary medicinal products on the market and access of farmers to those substances, says the report.
"It seems from the report that EU authorities were satisfied during their visit. The exceptions will always be there. The sector is ready for smooth implementation of the Shrimp Import Monitoring Programme (SIMP) of the United States, which comes into effect from January," said a member of the Seafood Exporters' Association of India.
In 2016, the EU had strengthened its inspection norms for aquaculture products from India, after finding the presence of antibiotics. The earlier rule was to test samples from at least a tenth of consignments; this was enhanced to half of all consignments.
The EU is, after the US and Southeast Asia, the third largest destination for Indian seafood. Frozen shrimp is the major item.
The 28-member bloc accounted for 15.8 per cent of the nearly $7.1 billion (Rs 500 billion) of Indian seafood export in 2017-18.