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Fish test directive push importers in deep soup

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FT ONLINE

Traders in fish import are in deep soup over a new government move that made testing of all imported fish shipments a prerequisite for their sales in the domestic market.

Fish importers find it difficult to follow given the fact that fish is a perishable commodity and imported shipments are getting stuck in port queue.

Previously, there was a provision for testing 10% of imported fish as a check but now it has been made mandatory that cent percent of the consignments have to go through testing process.

Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) recently issued the directive for importers not to sell imported fish before being tested, putting businessmen in a precarious situation.

Officials of BFSA said that the fish will only be cleared after being tested and approved from their laboratories.

Sensing huge losses and risk, the fish importers met with BFSA officials on January 15, and both side agreed that the imported fish will not be left to rot in the port rather, those would be in custody of respective importers till the time the consignments are cleared for marketing by the authorities.

A few consignments have already been sent to Bangladesh Atomic Energy Laboratory for relevant tests.

If any importer fails to comply with this then they will have to face strict legal actions.

According to the Sea Fish Importers Association, over 80,000 MT to 100,000 MT of fish is imported annually from countries like India, Australia, Myanmar, Pakistan and others, meeting 20% to 25% of the market demand.

BFSA justified its stringent directive by referring to allegations of presence of hazardous chemicals, and false laboratory approvals against a section of unscrupulous fish importers.

A Member of BFSA, Md Mahbub Kabir said that there were certain issues regarding the first directive and then it was simplified and amended following a meeting with the fish importers on Monday.

He stated that the importers will have to wait for the quality control report before selling their product in the market.

The amended directive has been forwarded to all the ports in the country, except for Chittagong Port, whose authorities will be notified soon, Mahbub added.

Addressing the concerns of fish importers regarding further difficulties, he said that they do not want to punish them rather, put everything in a process, which was previously absent.

General Secretary of Sea Fish Importers Association, Soumendu Basu said that imported fish are lying in the port for more than 26 days due to the procrastination in test process.

As the test results have not been dispatched to Chittagong from Dhaka yet, the importers are bearing extra costs for marketing delay, he added.

“We are importing fish with lab certified copies from exporting countries” he said adding that he didn’t get it why they need to be tested again.

Additional Commissioner at Chittagong Customs Baizid Hossain said that they have just received the BFSA directive and will proceed accordingly hereafter.

-SAM

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