1. In order to minimize the risk of consignments being detained by Port Health on arrival in an EU country it is recommended that existing and potential exporters and importers attention is drawn to the control of insect infestation and mould growth, the use of correct packaging and how to prepare and process the necessary paperwork for export/import. Appropriate best practice guidelines are given in Annex 2. Some of these guidelines are based on earlier work by Crawley Borough Council (Port Health, Gatwick Airport) and Air Marine Ltd, cargo clearing agents at Heathrow. It is recommended that the project disseminates a version of these guidelines in relevant languages to exporters, importers, trade development organizations, clearing agents and competent authorities in Nigeria, West Africa and Europe. Copies of relevant documents could also be circulated - health certificate, CVC, Airway bill.
2. The establishment of dedicated fish smoking plants/operations in West Africa which are approved for export by the EU was something which nearly all traders and the key clearing agent interviewed, agreed would improve trade. Of those interviewed, most were interested in investing in such a venture. One lady had land in Lagos that could be used. Another had capital, but was worried about the security situation. Another had problems accessing capital and was unable to attract the interests of UK banks, and did not want to deal with banks in West Africa because of the extra expense involved.
In order to assist the development of such processing facilities by interested parties the project may wish to consider undertaking an analysis of why such facilities have not already been established and the perceptions of exporters, potential investors and funding organisations to such a venture. This should aim to identify constraints and opportunities regarding the establishment of such plants in the region and draw firmer conclusions than this study alone is able to make.
3. The idea of producing in the UK a traditional type smoked product as an import substitute was discussed with some traders in London. It did not meet with much support as it was said that consumers would prefer the original product and it may not be easy to replicate processing in the UK. The rationale behind such an initiative is the high value of the product, the risk of detention and reducing the export of fish protein from Africa thus making more available for consumption within the region. There is cope to explore the concept further. It would not be technically difficult to undertake small-scale experimental production using farmed catfish and tilapia (readily available), suitable hardwood fuel and a brick built Chorkor type oven. The final products would be market tested in London either via retailers or direct to consumers and depending on the results, a feasibility study could then be undertaken. The latter should include an assessment of whether processing premises meeting the required health and hygiene regulations would make such a venture economically feasible.
4. An indicative assessment was made of the volume of smoked fish entering the UK as accompanied baggage. The indications are that the quantity of product via this route is large and perhaps larger than formally air freighted product. There is scope to undertake further research on this aspect of the trade to accurately determine its volume and to generate more of an understanding of the rationale and characteristics of this trade.
The author would like to thank the London based smoked fish importers and traders who were involved in the study. Many thanks also go to Michelle Blackstone, Senior Environmental Health Officer, Gatwick Airport and David Balchin of Air Marine Ltd.