News From : DagangHalal.com (14 May 2009)
Six Malaysian seafood companies will resume the export of seafood products to Europe after they have met the requirements set under the European Union (EU) health standard.
Malaysia’s Ambassador to the EU, Datuk Hussein Haniff, said the companies concerned would be given the green light again after positive results from the visit of a team of inspectors from the EU Food and Veterinary Office to Malaysia last March.
The team carried out a review mission in collaboration with Malaysia’s Health Ministry, Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Ministry and Malaysian Fisheries Development Board to implement measures to address the food safety management and hygiene issues in order to comply with the EU’s requirements.
“The report has been tabled and then there have been certain clarifications sought, which we have provided. The last we heard it is positive and they (the EU) are happy with the clarifications,” Hussein said.
“In fact, they (companies) have passed the test, meeting the EU requirements. We are still awaiting for the letter from the commission but we understand that we will able to get it by May 15,” he told Bernama in Brussels recently.
Besides the six companies, there are several others exporting their seafood products to the EU and they have been feeling the pinch, Hussein said.
Seafood products generate billions of ringgit annually and are considered as the second largest edible item exported by Malaysia.
“We are now working hard to ensure that the others will come in quickly. In order for that to happen, I think it will essential for the other companies be tested so that they meet the EU requirements,” he said.
Hussein said because of the problems that Malaysian exporters faced in the past, such as in not meeting requirements, the EU has placed special attention on them.
“That is the consequence. So now, with the extra attention, they are looking much harder than in the past and thus, the standards have become much higher,” he said.
Hussein said the other companies should take measures to ensure that they could meet the EU requirements when the second mission goes to Malaysia.
“All of them should pass the test. If one or two fail, then it would have repercussions because it means we are still not meeting the EU standards,” he said.
In June 2008, the Malaysian government voluntarily made a decision to temporarily freeze exports of aquaculture products to the EU.
This decision was taken following findings which revealed that there were shortcomings along the supply chain compromising food safety standards.
The government suspended seafood exports to the EU to avoid being banned for allegedly failing to meet European health standards.
“I also failed to understand why we can’t because I am sure we can. Neigbouring countries like Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines are able to meet the requirements, so surely Malaysia can,” Hussein said.
He said that Malaysia, being the second largest economy in Asean, has the technology to ensure compliance.
“When I spoke to Malaysian businessmen recently, they were talking about sustainable business which is very important,” Hussein said.
He said to be sure of sustainable business, Malaysian companies have to comply with new regulations coming out from the EU and its executive arm, the European Commission.
Among these are certification that the fish caught are not due to unregulated fishery and illegal fishing, Hussein said.
“The same with timber products which now require certification that it is from sustainable forest, not affecting the indigenous people or orang utan sanctuaries,” he said.
“These are the issues being raised by non-governmental organisations and environmentalist groups to ensure that Europeans only buy products that are sustainable,” he added.