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Friday, 22 August 2014 10:28

EU Market Access - Regional fish inspectors Course for Competent Authorities and fisheries private enterprises

eu_reg_training Major donors like AusAID and European Union (EU) have a long-standing relationship with Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs). Much of their funding has been related to development in the areas of good governance, institutional strengthening, capacity building, food security, climate change adaptation and economic sustainability in terms of providing market access. EU, a large lucrative market with duty-free and quota free access, has attracted great interest in PICTs, especially as an export destination for fish and fishery products.

At present the only PICTs approved for EU exports are Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia and French Polynesia. Other PICTs wishing to export to the EU market include Kiribati, Vanuatu, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Cook Islands.

However, EU has stringent regulatory standards for all importers and exporters either within the EU community or for countries exporting to EU. It requires the establishment of an independent Competent Authority (CA)1 within governments’ legislative framework, with enough staff and budget to operate. CA establishment and operation shall meet the same requirements everywhere, within and outside of the European Union.

Considering the current interest in PICTs, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) has been working with several member countries and territories to strengthen current competent authorities (CAs) and assist with the setting up of aspiring CAs.

One of the major challenges is maintaining the existing CAs so local fisheries private enterprises keep their access to EU market. The constant changes in EU regulatory requirements demand continuous capacity building for fisheries CA inspectors. This has been done through technical assistance, mentoring and national/regional training workshops. The development of a standardised fish inspectors training curriculum has been a great achievement to address these training needs.The course was first delivered in May 2012 at Auckland Seafood School, New Zealand. The second course was delivered from 2-22 June 2014 in Suva, Fiji. Two documents developed by SIPPO3 were used as reference material during the course: Strengthening fish and fishery products health conditions in ACP/OCT2 countries, and EU market access and eco-labelling for fishery and aquaculture products. The curriculum was tailored to suit the training needs of PICTs and delivered by SPC Consultant Francisco Blaha, SPC Fisheries Development Officer Timothy Numilengi, FFA Market Access Adviser Ratu Jope Tamani and FFA Consultant Cushla Hogarth.

The Fiji course was jointly funded by SPC AusAID (Food Security Program – Post Harvest & Export) and the FFA-EU Devfish2 Project (Development of Sustainable Tuna Fisheries in the Pacific ACP Countries – Phase II). Countries having operational CA systems in place and already exporting to EU were the targeted audience, with the addition of Kiribati, which is in the process of EU listing. A total of 18 participants from CAs and fisheries private enterprises attended, hailing from PNG, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Kiribati. As the course has been designed to meet the growing demand for compliance with technical market access requirements and trade facilitation, topics included:

  • the role of fish inspectors,
  • establishing CA and its operational functions,
  • managing food safety risk,
  • developing and implementing inspection systems,
  • establishing inspection methodologies,
  • reporting,
  • EU regulations and other legislative requirements relating to market access,
  • various fishing and processing techniques,
  • laboratory sampling and testing,
  • product traceability, and
  • rapid alert and crisis management.

This course has now been updated to include other non-fish inspection topics, such as thermal processing, difficult conversation and conflict resolution, and team building. These are fundamentals required by fish inspectors to effectively plan, manage and implement food safety management systems in compliance with market access requirements. Course participants were enthusiastic, acquired new skills and knowledge, which will benefit their respective countries in meeting certain market access conditions. The participating countries were given the opportunity in reviewing their own official control systems, which allowed them to identify shortfalls and make plans for improvement. This has also assisted SPC and FFA in developing work plans to better meet countries’ specific needs.

 


For more information: Timothy Numilengi, SPC Fisheries Development Officer (Post Harvest and Exports)

Image: Inspection on tuna long line fishing vessel for Solander Pacific Ltd. Left to right: Laite Savuro (Fiji CA), Mark Arimalanga (Solomon Island CA), Joe Peters (Solander Pacific Ltd), Esther Wakiomari (Solander Pacific Ltd).

 
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