Friday, October 27, 2006

Mindanao Marine Exporters Pass EU Inspection

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 27 Oct) - Local marine exporters here have received a "passing mark" from the European Union's (EU) health and sanitary inspection team, following its three-day assessment and evaluation visit, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) regional office here said.

The inspection team, headed by the EU’s Food and Veterinary Office, conducted the evaluation on four seafood companies in Zamboanga City to monitor the compliance of processors of fisheries products exported to European market.

The four companies are Permex Producer and Exporter Corp.; Ayala Seafood Corp., which respectively exporting tuna and sardines; and Bluefin Fishing Corp. and Crustaceans Trading Corp., which are both exporters of fresh and frozen octopus.

Fisheries senior inspector Bedling S. Munap said the team was satisfied by the way local marine exporters were abiding with EU’s Legislative on Food and Health requirements.

"Based on the initial report, the EU's evaluation team gave the four local marine exporters here a passing mark of 'AB'- which means they have all 'partially complied' with Union's food and sanitary policy," Mr. Munap told the Mindanao Examiner.

Along with the positive results of local exporters, the inspection team also gave BFAR's food control program and system high remarks. Munap said the four-man inspection team was divided into two.

The evaluation of marine exporters here was conducted by Luca Farina and micro-biologist experts Armando Manfrin, while the other team members inspected exporters in Davao and General Santos cities.

The Union's 25 member states have required all Filipino seafood companies to have an effective food processing control program.Edgar B. Lim, operations manager of Permex Corp., which has been exporting canned tuna to Europe since 1985, said a "passing mark" from the EU will ensure free flow of trading and will further strengthen marketing access to Union member states.

"The evaluation was very fruitful," he said, adding that the company has already spent more than P50 million for structural renovation and sanitary control since last year in preparation for the inspection.

He said with the recent assessment, some of the unclear requirements of the EU's Regulation on Food Hygiene and Safety was properly explained."We were able to discuss their sanitary requirements point-by-point," he said.

Local marine exporters have expressed confidence that they will pass all sanitary requirements imposed by the EU. George Sy Chua, manager of Ayala Seafood Corp., which produces the brand Mega Sardines, said he was optimistic that they will keep, if not increase and expand their European supply contracts.

"We are confident we will pass the assessment of the EU inspection team. Our processing plant is designed to meet international standards," he said.

He said Ayala Seafood has spent at least P10 million to improve its processing plant and an additional P2 million for maintenance. "Since we gained our export clearance in Europe, this will be our first time to be personally inspected by European officials," he said.

"The evaluation starts from the conditions of the factories' vessels, to onshore plants, to packaging, to storage and transport. They also conducted some laboratory, chemical and microbiological tests," Mr. Munap said. “Even cold storages of factories were also extensively examined.”

The Zamboanga Peninsula region used to have 14 fish processors which were authorized to export to EU, but about 10 firms have been "de-listed" in 2004after it failed to maintain the EU sanitary requirements. Others have opted to cater to non-EU countries, Mr. Munap added.

He said the team submitted a corrective action plan for the fisheries bureau to monitor local marine exporters."The corrective action plan contains some of the points cited by the inspection team which shall be monitored by the authoritative body," he explained.

The BFAR is expected to submit a report to the EU annually or whenever a significant change occurs based on the action plan's time table.

EU, along with the United States and Canada, is considered one of the major markets for marine products in Zamboanga peninsula. (Mindanao Examiner)

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