Fish is one of the most highly traded food commodities globally. According to FAO, global trade of fish and fishery products reached $136 billion in 2013. EU, US and Japan together account for about 70% of international fish imports and most fish exporting countries are trying to access these markets. Import requirements in these countries are very stringent in terms of quality, safety and fair trade practices. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Sanitary and Phytosanitory (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade including that of fish and fishery products. These are based on principles of (a) sovereignty, (b) harmonization, and (C) equivalence. According to these agreements, WTO member countries have the right to take measures to protect animal health and consumer health, based on a scientific risk assessment performed according to internationally accepted practices. The member countries are expected to harmonise their standards by those adopted by international organizations. For food safety, CODEX Alimentarius Commission standards and for animal health, OIE standards have been recognized in the SPS agreement. Issues related to food safety such as food hygiene, maximum permissible limits for contaminants, residues of veterinary drugs are generally part of national regulations. Examples include EU regulations and USFDA regulations. In India, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is responsible for developing and implementing national food safety related standards. Fish processing establishments, that already implement the mandatory HACCP based quality and safety management programme, are obliged to get certified by private certifying bodies like the British Retail Consortium (BRC), International Featured Standards (IFS), Food Safety System Certification (FSSC) 22000, Safe Quality Food (SQF) Institute certification and others. The EU requires that the national regulatory requirements are harmonized and equivalent to EU requirements. The US and Japan follow different procedures and it is the responsibility of the importing company to ensure that the operators in the producing country meet the USFDA/Japanese Ministry of Health requirements. India has been successful in accessing all these major markets in addition to other regional markets as is evident by growing exports of Indian seafood. Keeping these growth standards as required by the importing countries. The Export Inspection Council of India although specifics the requirements of traceability for fish and fishery products, it is essential that traceability to be established at all stages of production, process & distribution to get the confidence of the food business operators. However, considering costs involved in aquaculture certification which has to be borne by the producer, it is essential that India develops its own aquaculture certification programme for the benefit of the sector, keeping in view more than 80% small aqua farmers, where institutions such as CIBA, MPEDA and CAA could play the lead role.
Source: Aqua Aquaria