EU fisheries ban: Top Lankan team to visit Brussels

The Nation

18/03/2016

EU fisheries ban: Top Lankan team to visit Brussels

Lankan fishery exporters (seated left) meet the State Minister International Trade Sujeewa Senasinghe on 17 March at EDB joined by EDB Chairperson & CEO Indira Malwatte (far right)

Amidst exporters’ praise on government’s continued efforts to resolve the EU fishery ban, a top team of officials from Sri Lanka is now scheduled to depart for Brussels for decisive talks on the ban.

The Lankan team shall include members from the Prime Ministerial Task Force on the EU Fishery ban.

“A top Lankan delegation on the EU Fishery ban is scheduled to leave for Brussels on 30 March” revealed the Chairman of Seafood Exporters Association of Sri Lanka (SEASL) and Managing Director of Global Sea Foods, Prabhash Subasinghe on 17 March at EDB.

SEASL Chairman Subasinghe was addressing the State Minister of International Trade Sujeewa Senasinghe on 17 March at EDB during a special discussion that the State Minister was attending with Lankan seafood exporters. Reps from leading seafood export firms of Sri Lanka including Global Seafoods Ltd, NorthWest Fishery, Sri Lanka Aquaculture Producers Association etc were meeting Minister Subasinghe to apprise him of issues they are faced with.

On 14 October 2014, EU declared: “Sri Lanka is not complying with international rules on illegal fishing and Lankan control systems inadequate. Fisheries products caught by vessels flagged in Sri Lanka will not be able to enter the EU market.”

Thereafter, in March 2015, under the supervision of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, a Committee was appointed on the fishery ban which continuously met, updating the EU with its progress reports. The 2014 EU fish ban affected Sri Lanka’s seafood exports and the 500,000 strong fishery sector livelihoods.

“A top Lankan delegation on the EU Fishery ban is scheduled to leave for Brussels on 30 March. This meeting is almost expected to be the final, and a decisive meeting with EU on the fishery ban issue and its outcome will determine our fishery export outlook to Europe in future. We believe the outcome shall be favorable for Sri Lanka” said SEASL Chairman Subasinghe and added: “Especially in the post-ban period, our seafood exports are suffering and complicating the situation is the unfriendly import and export policy environment. For example, we need to pay a licence fee of $50 per tonne of seafood we export while suffering from inadequate production volumes to meet the export demands. We need the government’s support for us to increase production. The 9% tariff charged by China on our seafood exports is a problem and this needs to be discussed at FTA formulation. We praise the government’s prompt responses to the EU in this, which are helping us to overcome our export setbacks.”

Despite the ban, three EU countries- Italy, UK and Netherlands- were among the top five buyers of Lankan seafood in 2014, while the US and Japan topped the list (as no one and two) in the same year. Lankan seafood production tripled by 2015 from 2004 volumes and of the total harvest, only about a quarter is exported due to heavy domestic consumer demand. More than 70% of Lankan seafood exports consist of tuna fish. The $252.7 Mn Lankan seafood exports in 2014 but declined by 35% to $163.1 Mn in 2015.

Responding to SEASL Chairman Subasinghe and seafood exporters, Minister Subasinghe said: “I too have been given to understand that the EU fishery ban issue is now heading for a favourable resolution and a Lankan team leaving for Brussels is good news for you, our fishery exporters. In fact, 95% of compliance work on Fishery ban has been completed by us. The EU ban had a cascading effect on our fishery sector and livelihoods. It also damaged our international image as a reputed seafood exporter.  Therefore it is time we commence an image building campaign and also time to launch a sustainable fisheries based efforts so that we can make fishery exports a $1 Bn sector soon.”

“The way to achieve $1 Bn in seafood is by becoming smarter in comparison to the competition” stressed EDB Chairperson & CEO Indira Malwatte, and added:  “For example, take your marketing-It is time for Lankan seafood to enter global markets as a common, single brand to build its brand and overcome the setbacks. EDB can help in building Lankan fishery image overseas.”

Sri Lanka complies with the stringent regulations imposed by importing countries and adheres to HACCP, BRP, Friend of Sea and other food security environment friendly requirements when it comes to seafood exports.

The fishery reps also thanked EDB for its continued help to them to enhance their exports at 17 March meeting.