Vol. 5 Num 514 Mon. November 07, 2005  

Shrimp exporters hope to win EU hearts
EU inspection team arrives in Dhaka today

As a European Union team arrives in Dhaka today to look into the prevailing standards of Bangladesh shrimp industry, frozen food exporters are confident of winning the EU delegation's satisfaction regarding the shrimp industry's standards.

"The plants owners are trying hard to comply with the European Commission directives on quality issues with the help of the Department of Fisheries (DoF)," said Maqsudur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association (BFFEA).

Recalling the ban on shrimp export from Bangladesh by EC in 1997 and the subsequent lifting of it in early 1998, Rahman said, "We are confident of satisfying the delegation about our standards."

"Our shrimp industry is at a very good position now. In the last couple of years there have been no complaints from the buyers," he said.

The four-member delegation from Food and Veterinary Office of EC will visit some factory premises and look into the quality control system and all types of infrastructure facilities existing in the shrimp industry.

According to BFFEA, the team will visit laboratories run by the DoF, Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) and Bangladesh Council for Science and Industrial Research (BCSIR) to examine various testing and quality control measures regarding exportable shrimps and fish.

During the 10-day visit, the team will also visit some EU approved shrimp processing plants, shrimp farming areas, depots, landing centres, and other establishments in different areas of Chittagong and Khulna.

The visiting officials will also meet government officials, representatives of the EC in Bangladesh and leaders of the BFFEA to discuss the EC directives followed by the shrimp sector of the country.

Ahead of the high-profile visit, the government and exporters took initiatives to upgrade processing plants, standardise quality control system, implement HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) policy, refurbish government laboratories and provide training for officials and workers in shrimp industry.

The Ministry of Fisheries held a series of meetings with the departments concerned and the BFFEA to review the preparations that have been made to satisfy the inspection team.

The BFFEA president said the visiting EU officials may check the actions taken in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) of the commission, quality control management of fishery products, relevant national laws, regulations and administrative provisions equivalent to the EC legislation, strength of the competent authority and the field-level condition of the shrimp industry.

According to BFFEA, out of 130 shrimp processing plants, 58 are approved by the EC to export shrimp and fish to the EU countries. Around 45 percent of the country's frozen foods are being exported to the EU markets.

Presently, the frozen foods sector contributes 4.86 percent to Bangladesh's total export earning. In fiscal year 2004-05, the country fetched US$ 421 million in export earning from the sector posting a 7.81 percent growth compared to the previous fiscal's earning of US$ 390 million.

In the current fiscal, Bangladesh has a target of exporting frozen foods worth US$ 450 million.

Exporters believe if Bangladesh increases its production capacity of shrimp and fish, it will be able to earn Tk 10,000 crore annually from frozen foods export.