June 20, 2011


Bangladeshi shrimp may face stringent US safety tests



Bangladesh's shrimp exports to the US market may face mandatory stringent testing requirements under the US' new Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA), exporters said on Saturday (Jun 18).

The US is the second single largest market for the local frozen shrimps.


Bangladesh ships around half a billion US dollars worth of shrimp every year, making it the country's third largest export item. The industry employs more than a million people mainly in the country's impoverished southwestern coastal districts.


The commercial counsellor at the Bangladesh embassy in Washington DC sent a letter on May 27 to the concerned ministries, Export Promotion Bureau, and BFFEA requesting to take necessary steps in this regard.


"As a significant volume of frozen food and shrimp is exported to USA from Bangladesh the FSMA is likely to affect the seafood exporters in their processing of fish and fishery products and the processors need to be more careful in identifying hazards and controlling those," the letter said.


The fourth edition of the US Food Safety Modernisation Act has updated the principles of hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP), an exporter told the FE.


The HACCP is a scientific, rational and systematic approach to the identification, assessment, and control of hazards during production, harvesting, manufacturing, transportation, distribution, and preparation to ensure that food is safe when consumed.


The US tests shrimp consignment from Bangladesh at random - a standard being followed all over the world.


"But exporters may face mandatory testing requirements like the EU market if pre-cautionary measures are not taken from now," he said.


Due to such testing requirements by the US, exports would be unduly delayed for the tough testing measures, he said, adding that the importers will also 'punish' the exporters by offering cheaper rates.


Bangladesh's shrimp exporters are facing a stringent 20% mandatory testing requirement from the EU from July last year.


And many hidden setbacks such as cases of rejection, detention, and third party testing certificates will come to the surface, something that the industry has not foreseen yet, sources said.


Kazi Belayet Hossain, a big exporter to the US market, said that the importing country could impose testing requirements to ensure its food safety through quality control.


"I think the new FSMA is unlikely to affect our local industry as the country has developed its quality and testing facilities," he said, linking it with a conspiracy of some local NGOs against the industry.


Shamsul Kibria, joint secretary of Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock said the country has much improved its aquaculture alliance according to the EU Food and Veterinary Office recommendations.


"We do not think that the US food safety net programme will impact our shrimp industry as we have already complied with the EU rules and regulation which is the largest market for Bangladeshi shrimps and fish," he said.


"We will issue the FSMA copies to the concerned authorities including Department of Fisheries, Bangladesh Frozen Food Exporters Association (BFFEA) to alert them and take their opinion about the matter," he explained.


If needed, the government will take measures to address the issue, he added.

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