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Boosting trade: Training fish inspectors in Poti, Georgia

FAO’s Ruggero Urbani and Esther Garrido-Gamarro (Standing, first two on left) join Georgian fish inspectors and processors in Poti, Georgia as part of the training workshop

Georgia, a small country in the Caucasus with a population of 3.7 million, enjoys significant marine fisheries resources. With a coastline along the Black Sea, its annual catch of Black Sea anchovies (Engraulis encrasicolus) totals 60 000 metric tonnes.

Most of this catch is currently sold fresh to neighboring countries or processed into fish meal and oil. However, Georgia would like to be able to export directly to the European Union (EU), the world’s largest importer of fish and seafood products in terms of value. In 2014, the EU imported fish and seafood products for a value of 21  billion euro, making this an extremely interesting export market for countries like Georgia.

However, in order to gain access to the EU market, Georgia will have to meet a number of criteria for fish inspection, certification systems, laboratories and related legislation.

Georgia is working with the European Union to meet these criteria. In order to build capacity in these areas, a project was developed with FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture to work with Georgia’s National Food Agency, the national authority for food inspection and certification, including in the fisheries sector.

Black Sea anchovies. Georgia produces 60 000 metric tonnes annually

According to Thomas Moth-Poulsen, FAO Regional Fisheries Officer for Europe and Central Asia “Black Sea anchovies are an excellent product, and we believe there is potential for Georgia to expand its market reach and eventually export directly to the EU.  We are working closely with Georgia to strengthen their capacity and to obtain the necessary certification, and we look forward to seeing steady progress with our joint work.”

As part of this overall strategy, Esther Garrido-Gamarro, FAO Food Safety and Quality Officer and Ruggero Urbani, FAO Consultant on Veterinary Health and Fish Inspection recently travelled to Georgia’s Black Sea port city of Poti, where they carried out an assessment of landing sites and markets, and trained inspectors to monitor landing sites, factories and fish markets in order to meet EU requirements.

Garrido-Gamarro and Urbani visited Poti’s two fish landing sites and examined fishing vessel to observe working conditions for food safety purposes. They also visited anchovy processing factories to assess the food safety situation of the private sector.

The circle maritime nets used for anchovies

Two days were dedicated to practical training for fish inspectors, reviewing all aspects of EU regulations on traceability and labeling, including a review of the checklists to be completed at each inspection.

Additional training was carried out to add value to small pelagics and to produce them in good, hygienic conditions, in accordance with international food safety requirements.

Speaking about her experiences at the training sessions in Poti, Esther  Garrido-Gamarro, FAO Food Safety and Quality Officer said “It is very satisfactory to see such a rapid development of the fisheries sector in Georgia, thanks to training courses and other activities carried out during the project.

This has been an excellent opportunity to move towards greater harmonization with EU requirements”.

According to Ruggero Urbani, FAO Consultant on Veterinary Health and Fish Inspection, important next steps will be to “This workshop was useful in providing participants with basic information and specific foundations about the methods for the inspection of fish products.

Training fish inspectors at one of Poti’s Black Sea landing sites

This will allow us to diversify training for the future, specifically focusing on the work and the role of fish inspectors, as  compared to the controls of other food products.“ 

This training workshop was only one of the range of activities designed to help strengthen Georgia’s fisheries production capacity, which will provide wider trade opportunities. 

We’ll be informing you of other capacity building work undertaken in Georgia and in other countries in the regions as they work to expand their trade opportunities for their fish products.

According to Ruggero Urbani, FAO Consultant on Veterinary Health and Fish Inspection, important next steps will be to “This workshop was useful in providing participants with basic information and specific foundations about the methods for the inspection of fish products.

Training fish processors on hygienic standards for salting anchovies. Georgia is working to meet standards that would allow it to export its fish products to the EU market.

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