FAO Regional Office for Africa

Africa Solidarity Trust Fund Improving food safety in southern Africa

Bivalves, important contributors to food security and international trade for the subregion

Live oysters at the Tetelestai mariculture facility in Walvis Bay. Photo FAO/ Edward Ogolla

14 June 2016, Walvis Bay - Sustainable agriculture and natural resources management have the potential to make the southern Africa food secure and support a vibrant economy. However, food safety threats constrain the subregion from achieving its full potential.

A project - funded by the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF) - working on strengthening food safety controls as well as improving the management of plant and animal pests and diseases in the subregion, convened a workshop on bivalve safety management for experts from Angola, Namibia, Madagascar and Mozambique.

Speaking at the opening session of the meeting (6-10 June 2016), Babagana Ahmadu, FAO Representative in Namibia highlighted both the nutritional and economic benefits derived from the bivalve mollusc.

“Bivalves - including species such as clams, oysters, scallops - constitute an important commodity contributing both to food security and international trade in our region. In many parts of the world, including ours, shellfish harvested by coastal fishermen constitute an important nutrient source in their diet”, he said.

In a speech read on his behalf, Hon. Cleophas Mutjavikua, Governor of Namibia’s Erongo Region, noted that marine aquaculture products  - such as fresh oysters - had contributed about N$ 28 million (US$ 1.85 million) to the Namibian economy and provided jobs to about 200 Namibians over the past three years. This, he added had significantly contributed to improving the local economy and reducing rural poverty.

Increasing trade, safeguarding health

World bivalve mollusc production has increased 15 fold in the last 60 years. With production reaching as much as 15 million tonnes in 2012, this growth has been attributed to trade, which continues to expand rapidly.

Though bivalve molluscs are such important commodities, very few countries can access international markets due to stringent requirements. These shellfish are filter-feeding animals; they tend to concentrate microorganisms, toxins and chemicals from the environment and therefore, their safety management require strict sanitary measures.

“Globally, 97 countries have been authorized to export fishery products to the largest seafood market – the European Union, but only 14 of them have been authorized to export the high-value commodity of live bivalve molluscs,” said Mr. Ahmadu.

FAO and WHO have been working with the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) to develop Standards for bivalve molluscs and the Codes of Practice to be followed by the countries to achieve these standards, but further guidance was requested by Codex member countries in this regard. A Technical Guidance document for Bivalve Molluscan Sanitation Programs is being developed, and the workshop served as the first step for its pilot implementation in the participant countries and refinement of the guidance document.

Peer learning

The workshop provided participants from the participating countries an opportunity to share experiences and challenges as well and learn from the good practices accumulated over the years by different countries.

“In Madagascar, we are currently only producing for local consumption. But now we are here in Namibia, and we have seen how they are already producing for international markets. We would like to learn from their experience and adapt the same for Madagascar”, said Mr. Razafimandimby Jean Joseph Chrysostophe, Director General of Fisheries Resources in Madagascar.

Tobias Kuugongelwa  - Senior Inspector at the Namibian Standards Institution‘s Fisheries Inspectorate sees opportunities for strengthening collaboration with countries in the subregion.

“There has been no appraisal done as yet to evaluate demand, but if you see other countries like Angola, Mozambique, and Madagascar, they do consume these shellfish. It would indeed be good to look at these countries with a view to tapping into new markets. This is exactly the kind of communication that happens in settings like this workshop. We are making professional contacts, and we will see how we can share information and further engage in mutual beneficial opportunities”, he said.

The ASTF - a unique initiative for mobilizing resources from Africa for Africa, which is administered by FAO - funded the workshop through a US$ 4 million project that was launched in 2014.

Contacts

Edward Ogolla | FAO Southern Africa Communication | Edward.Ogolla@fao.org

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