Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Director-General of FAO, I wish to welcome you all to the FAO-ASEAN Strategic Planning Workshop on Harmonization of Standards for Shrimp Import-Export. This workshop is a collaborative effort by FAO and ASEAN to address the critical issue of harmonization regarding quality and inspection standards in the ASEAN member nations for exported shrimp, as the lack of a strategic and cohesive approach in addressing the issue has already resulted in considerable lost opportunities for many Asian countries.
The ASEAN region represents some of the largest shrimp exporting nations in the world and its contribution to both the food security and the economies of these developing countries is considerable. In the year 2000, global aquaculture production exceeded 35 million metric tonnes with a value of over 52 thousand million US dollars. Although crustaceans represented only 4.8 percent of total production by weight, they comprised almost 21 percent of the value of global aquaculture. The tiger prawn is ranked first by value at over four thousand million US dollars and one recent estimate indicates that white shrimp produced in Asia are making an increasing contribution to the overall production of Asian farmed shrimp.
Developed countries have been the major markets for farmed shrimp over the last few years, and the market conditions in the USA are now the predominant factor affecting international market prices. Shrimp is the number one seafood consumed in the USA and imports have now reached 430 000 tonnes per year, worth 3.4 thousand million US dollars, and are still increasing.
The Japanese market is also important, with 80 percent of its imports coming from Asian countries (particularly Indonesia, Viet Nam and India) in 2002, compared to just 20 percent from Latin America.
Recently there have been a series of events that have impacted the ability of ASEAN and other Asian countries to export shrimp, especially to the European Union. The European market has been more difficult to penetrate due to consumer pressures regarding a range of issues that include sustainability criteria, traceability, contaminants and residues. Issues concerning antibiotics has lead to recent bans on importation and blacklisting of farmed shrimp from many Asian countries.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
While it is true that agriculture subsidies and trade tariffs are the major issues in trade liberalization today, it is crucial that we address the technical issues, such as the harmonization of disparities in quality control and inspection standards if the obstacles to import bans by the developed nations are to be lifted. The harmonization of standards will not only result in substantial savings, but also contribute to environment, human health and sustainable agriculture; common standards could also enhance the reputation of the region as an exporter of safe products of consistent quality and composition, facilitating the access to international markets.
FAO recognizes the urgent need to address issues such as these, as demonstrated by its involvement in the SPS agreements which have played an important role in harmonizing sectoral international instruments on food safety within the framework of the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission. The importance of this area has also been acknowledged by ASEAN in incorporating a move towards harmonization in the ASEAN Strategic Plan, 1999-2004. As the world moves towards a system of food regulation based on food safety assessment, there will be an increasing need to evaluate existing, and/or establish new standards and regulations on a country by country basis.
In the year 2000, FAO, in collaboration with the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, considered that it would be timely to examine opportunities for action on a region-wide scale. A consultation was convened in Manila on 23-24 November 2000, immediately following the 7th ASEAN Food Conference and attended by 23 representatives from ten ASEAN countries.
The consultation recognized that differing priorities within the ASEAN countries makes regional negotiations and consensus difficult, especially when linked to the differing value and rate of growth of the fisheries sector. With respect to export products, the ASEAN countries frequently compete with one another, both for foreign and intra-ASEAN markets, further constraining cooperation and coordination.
Since the consultation, there has been increasing awareness of the WTO and its implications for regional and global trade. Opening of markets and fair and equitable trade are important concepts, but all too often circumvented by technical barriers to trade and lack of agreement on criteria or standards between importing and exporting countries. This highlights the necessity and importance of having a concerted voice in global decision making mechanisms, such as WTO and the Codex Alimentarius Commission, since quality and safety standards are fundamental to the criteria for market access. Within the fisheries sector, this has been most recently highlighted by the focus on antibiotic residues and restrictions on imports of farmed shrimp by some countries.
To address these critical emerging issues and in recognition of the need to raise the profile of these issues at a policy level, the ASEAN Sectoral Working Group on Fisheries meeting in Laos PDR in May 2003 developed an ASEAN Sectoral Task Force to harmonize quality and inspection standards for shrimp export and import in the region, nominating Thailand to act as the lead country.
As the lead country, Thailand, through the Department of Fisheries, requested FAO’s assistance to organize this strategic planning workshop. FAO, in response to this important initiative of ASEAN members, is pleased to be able to provide both technical and financial support to this activity, particularly since it also involves collaboration with the ASEAN Secretariat and the ASEAN Sectoral Working Group on fisheries. I hope that this ‘regional ownership’ would be an important factor for informing policy makers from the ASEAN member states and for developing concerted actions to jointly address specific regional issues.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you are aware that the aim of this strategic workshop is to
- promote confidence building between the various inspection systems through open and transparent discussions;
- develop guidelines for food control capacity through training and exchange of information;
- work towards equivalence between the different control systems with the goal of concluding mutual recognition agreements between all ASEAN members;
- prepare a hazards and control guide specific for ASEAN products, coupled with encouragement of increased CODEX participation; and
- formulate regional risk assessments for products of particular importance to the region.
We hope that by Thursday you will be able to recommend what needs to be done to move forward on these important matters. It is my sincere hope that this workshop will provide the initial stimulus to facilitate the ASEAN member countries to undertake concrete follow-up actions on the issues of harmonization of standards for exported shrimp, as well as on the broader issues relating to the harmonization of safety and quality standards in seafood products.
In closing, I wish to thank the Department of Fisheries of the Government of Thailand for its generous assistance in the organization of this meeting.
May I wish you fruitful deliberations and an enjoyable stay in Bangkok.