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Seafood exports may come to a halt

New mandatory registration norms introduced by the Export Inspection Council confuse fishermen

George Joseph  |  Kochi 

The Export Inspection Council (EIC), under the ministry of commerce, has made it mandatory that all vessels supplying fish for export should register with it.

According to the executive instructions for approval and monitoring of fish and fishery products for export, published recently, only registered vessels can supply fish for export and exporters should purchase raw materials from EIC-approved vessels only. The new set of instructions had came into effect from March 15.

The new orders would have a serious impact on the seafood export sector and according to exporters, these have already started coming to a halt. Under the present system, vessels are registered under the fishery departments of the states concerned.

According to instructions by the Export Inspection Council, the following conditions are mandatory for vessels used for fishing for export purposes:
Special requirements for vessels:
  • Vessels must be designed and constructed so as to avoid contamination of fishery products with bilge water, sewage, smoke, fuel, oil, grease or other objectionable substances
  • Vessels designed and equipped to preserve fresh fishery products for more than 24 hours shall be equipped with tanks or containers for the storage of fishery products at a temperature approaching that of melting ice. These tanks or containers shall be separated from the machinery space and the crew quarters by partitions, which are sufficient to prevent any contamination of the stored fish
  •   Equipment and material used for working shall be made of corrosion-resistant material that is easy to clean and disinfect 

Hygienic practices to be followed:

  • Utmost care shall be taken while catching/storing/handling of fish to avoid injury/damage to the animal
  • The fishery products should not be dumped directly on the deck. Clean food grade polythene sheet may be used for receiving the fish 
  • As soon as the fishery products are taken on board, they must be protected from contamination and from the effects of sun or any other source of heat

The vessels can register under the Marine Products Export Development Authority (Mpeda) for getting subsidy and government aid, but this is not mandatory. There are more than 60,000 vessels engaged in fishing in the major maritime states of the country.

Anwar Hashim, vice-chairman, Mpeda, and former president of the Seafood Exporters Association of India, said, “Exporters are planning to stop purchase of fish if the registration is compulsory. There is no other way till the issue is settled. There is confusion over the registration process and power to a number of regulatory bodies creates serious problems for the industry.” He added enough time should be given to implement these instructions, else the sector would slide into deep crisis.

Requirements for approval of fishing vessels are not easy to meet and a lot of facilities are newly implemented in most vessels, said Jossy, a boat owner. According to him, most of the requirements are not practical.

Due to cost escalation, the fishing industry is in deep crisis now and the catch is also limited. If exports comes to a halt, the sector will incur huge losses as the price of fish depends mainly on the demand from export units, said Kochi-based boat owners.

Jossy said severe labour shortage, increase in wages and price of diesel are other serious issues. “The mandatory requirement of registration with EIC and the pre-conditions for registration will add to our woes. Though these measures are for enhancing the quality of Indian seafood items, these seem impractical to an ailing sector like ours,” he added.

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First Published: Tue, March 27 2012. 00:14 IST