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Losing EU fish export could be costly

Written By : General Editor. The “de-listing” of Fiji as a source of fresh fish by the European Union is a serious blow to our struggling local fish industry and
10 Jun 2008 12:00

Written By : General Editor. The “de-listing” of Fiji as a source of fresh fish by the European Union is a serious blow to our struggling local fish industry and to our export performance in general.
It should be stressed that this is not directly coup-related though it may have been partially brought about by a shortage of government funds following the military takeover.
The EU’s decision stems from its requirement that all member countries have standard regulations regarding the cleanliness and hygiene at all sources of fresh fish. The Brussels bureaucracy contracts out the supervision of the preparation of fish for export in Fiji to the Ministry of Health. However, it now says the ministry lacks the resources to adequately undertake this task and thus Fiji’s fresh fish no longer has access to the massive European market.
It’s a serious blow that could cost our exporters as much as $10 million in lost sales.
And the sad factor is that this is not a bolt from the blue. In fact there have been discussion back and forward for quite some time but in the absence of visible action, the EU has taken this step that will probably take a year to retrace.
The European market is highly lucrative. With much of their own fisheries exhausted or nearly so, Europeans have become accustomed to paying a high price for their fish so that Fiji exporters to that market enjoyed a very high margin – much more than that obtainable in our more traditional markets in Japan and the United States.
Sales to the EU were also the result of some serious investment by Fiji’s fresh fish exporters. It takes time effort and money to establish a market such as this and the de-listing means that investment will now take much longer to pay dividends.
And this could not have come at worse time for the Fiji economy. Right now we need every export cent we can muster and loss of this revenue is of serious concern not only to the companies affected but to the nation as a whole.
All is not permanently lost, however. It seems the EU is willing to send out a consultant to help the industry and the ministry to become compliant with the Brussels requirements.
But this will take time. The very large EU bureaucracy moves excruciatingly slowly, hence the time factor involved in the possible recommencement of exports.
Meanwhile, it seems, we have to bite the bullet.
The best we can hope for is that the industry and the ministry between them can come up quickly with a solution that will satisfy the EU and that this vital export can resume as soon as possible.



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