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Preparation of this document

A study of the United Kingdom market for West African smoked fish was undertaken in May and June 2000 in connection with:

- FAO Project TCP/NIR/8926 “Strengthening of Fish Quality Assurance” in Nigeria;

- FAO’s work on promoting sustainable development of artisanal fisheries;

- FAO’s work on promoting safety and quality of fishery products in domestic and export markets.

The study was commissioned by FAO’s Fish Utilization and Marketing Service (FIIU) to the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the United Kingdom and was carried out by Mr Ansen Ward. It was edited by Mr Frans Teutscher of FIIU.

Ward, A.
A study of the trade in smoked-dried fish from West Africa to the United Kingdom.
FAO Fisheries Circular. No. 981. Rome, FAO. 2003. 17p.


The quantity of smoked fish from West Africa entering the United Kingdom is estimated to be in the region of 500 tonnes per year with a retail value of £5.8 to £9.35 million. Approximately 120 tonnes arrives by airfreight, a significant proportion of the remainder is thought to be entering as accompanied baggage and product is also arriving overland from mainland Europe. Nigeria currently exports approximately 5 tonnes of smoked fish per month as airfreight - 60 tonnes per annum. Most of this is via Gatwick Airport. The other major exporting countries are Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Cameroon.

Approximately 1 in 4 consignments of air freighted smoked fish are detained for some reason at port of entry. Of these 70% are destroyed. This is approximately 17.5% of consignments and equivalent to 20 tonnes of product with a retail value of £240 000 to £390 000. The main reasons for detention are:

  • Packaging is inadequate - re-used computer or TV boxes, in poor condition, newspaper or baskets are used for packing the fish.

  • Insect infestation.

  • Establishment number stapled on the box rather than written on.

  • Health certificates not filled in correctly.

  • Smoked fish included among other goods and not declared.

Draft best practice guidelines have been drawn up focusing on the control of insect infestation, mould growth, the use of correct packaging and the preparation and processing of necessary paperwork for export/import.

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