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Opinion: EU ban on Brazilian seafood benefits no one

Brazilian seafood has been shut out of the EU market since the end of 2017 after scathing criticism from EU officials, concerned at a lack of clarity in relation to who is responsible for sanitary inspection checks on factory vessels, the landing of raw material into ports and processing plants.

The continued ban on Brazilian fisheries products to the European Union does not benefit either side, damaging both the Brazilian fishing industry and European conglomerates that see Brazil as an important source of seafood.

The resumption of Brazilian exports to Europe continues to depend on the acceptance of an action plan submitted by the Brazilian Sanitary Authority to the EU DG Santé authority in late March/early April.

During the recent Brussels trade fair, a cordial meeting took place between DG Santé and a Brazilian delegation, including the Secretary of Aquaculture and Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture, diplomats and agricultural attachés of the Brazilian mission to the EU.

At the meeting a new governance structure was presented to EU officials unlike the one they saw at the time of the original audit in September 2017. This time everything from primary fishing production in boats up to the shipment of finished products and their corresponding Health Certification, come under the exclusive responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture (MAPA).

Previously, under a complex arrangement, the Secretariat of Aquaculture and Fisheries linked to the Brazilian presidency held responsibility for fishing and aquaculture issues, while the agriculture industry had the final say on processing plant matters.

But the old system left gray areas in between, leaving room for partisan political games to be played out with no one willing to take ultimate responsbility where no clear defining line existed.

These clarifications are very important, since the main negative aspect raised by the audit was a lack of clarity of which Brazilian authority is ultimately responsible for sanitary issues, whether related to finished products or of raw material production.

A a review of the action plan and its comments related should have been completed and released by the end of May but in a recent, Fisheries and Aquaculture Secretary Jorge Seif Junior announced that after further contact, the division of DG Sante responsible for responding to the Action Plan has not yet pronounced its findings postponed them until the end of June.

Now issues are being dealt with by the machinery of the agriculture ministry MAPA, there is harmony between ministerial departments leading us to believe that a resumption of exports to the EU from Brazil is possible.

However, it is not we Brazilians that need this reassurance but the Europeans, while there remains a large credibility gap to be overcome.

In fact, despite documentary flaws and inconsistencies in the bureaucratic process, phytosanitary issues with products of Brazilian origin destined for the EC were statistically negligible.

Obviously we do not propose a relaxation of rules and protocols, but believe that with political goodwill, the recognition that there has been a period instability in the governance of the Brazilian seafood industry with all the consequences that need to be taken into account by public bodies then the resumption can go ahead.

Cadu Villaça is technical director at Brazilian fishing industry and processing trade body Conepe.

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