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1.1 Nutritional benefits of fish and shellfish
1.2. Characteristics of consumption in the region
1.3 Annual consumption of fish and shellfish
1.4 Gross market data
1.5 Specific market data
1.6 Information for the trade
1.7 Technical assistance projects in the sub-sector

1.1 Nutritional benefits of fish and shellfish

An increased per caput consumption of fish and shellfish in any region benefits health. Aquatic animals contain a high level of protein (17-20%), with an amino-acid profile similar to that of meat from land animals. The flesh of fish is therefore readily digestible and immediately utilizable by the human body. Compared with land animals (with some exceptions, such as shellfish), aquatic animals have a far higher percentage of edible flesh, and there is little wastage. Aquatic animals are a source of minerals, such as calcium, iron and phosphorus, as well as trace elements and vitamins. Marine species are particularly rich in iodine. The fatty-acid content is high in polyunsaturates, and particularly those which are attributed to reduce blood cholesterol.

In the Mediterranean region, the role of aquaculture as a regulator and a complement to fish and shellfish supply has been recognized for a long time. Primitive forms of aquaculture around the Mediterranean, such as storage ponds for oysters, and eels, date back to Roman times. Aquaculture practices and the range of species cultured have been diversified with time. Aquacultural products are currently a relatively well-known food source for increasing numbers of people in most countries of the region, but not yet to the point where they are so common and available to satisfy basic nutritional needs for any sector of the population. However, they are considered by most of the population as an option which offers variety and quality in protein supply rather than an essential commodity.

As the Mediterranean is one of the prime tourist regions in the world the present consumption of fish and shellfish products is highly tourist-related, particularly for the higher value species such as sea-bass, sea breams, and clams. Furthermore, as seafood is usually an important component of menus in restaurants specializing in high class business meals, its consumption in the region changes geographically with the seasons. The consumption of many high-value species is also strongly linked to the traditions of religious and social feasts in some countries, so that more than three-quarters of the yearly consumption is concentrated into a period of less than one month (particularly for oysters, and smoked salmon).

1.2. Characteristics of consumption in the region

The animal protein available in the region (the cumulated per caput consumption of meat and fish) varies among the different countries over a wide range. According to current food balance sheets published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO, 1984 data), the cumulated meat plus fish per caput yearly consumption is:

- below 30 kg in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey,
- over 30 and below 60 kg in Albania, Libya, and Lebanon,
- over 60 and below 90 kg in Greece, Israel, Malta, and Portugal,
- over 90 kg in France, Italy, and Spain.

No statistical data are available for Cyprus. It might be noted that all five member countries of the European Economic Community (EEC) and all the developed countries of the region (as defined by the UN classification) fall into the last two groups.

The ratio of meat to fish in the per caput consumption of protein in the different countries shows a wide range, from a low 1.2 in Portugal to an extreme 76.4 in Lebanon. In the majority of countries the proportion is low, between 2 and 5; for example:

- below 2 in only one case, Portugal,
- 2-5, in Algeria, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Malta, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, and Turkey,
- 5-10, in Albania, Italy, and Libya,
- 10-50, in Syria and Yugoslavia,
- over 50, in Lebanon.

No information is available for Cyprus. Therefore, with the exception of Portugal, the Mediterranean is a region where meat plays a consistently more important role than fish in the protein diet of the populations; and in three countries (Lebanon, Syria, and Yugoslavia), where fish accounts for less than 10% of the diet, the importance of fish is almost insignificant.

The reason for the lack of importance of fish is related to the relatively low fish productivity of the Mediterranean Sea, which provides no more than a quarter of the total fish catches of the countries considered by the survey. All those countries in the region which consume more than 100 000 t of fish and fisheries products per year (namely, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Spain, and Turkey) obtain supplies from their fleets in other seas, and/or import from regions other than the Mediterranean. In fact these eight countries are far from meeting their fish requirements either from their own catches in the Mediterranean or from outside. The FAO "food balance sheets (1984 data) record combined total imports of 2 114 252 t of fishery products and total exports of 880 412 t, a net import imbalance of 1 233 840 t (see Annex, Table 1).

1.3 Annual consumption of fish and shellfish

The consumption of fishery products in the region as described amounted to 5 141 514 t in 1984. The total capture by the fleets of the countries amounted to 4 393 808 t, of which 490 800 t were processed for non-food uses, and the imports and exports were as indicated in Section 1.2, above. The countries of the region consume 69% of what they catch, but satisfy only 59% of their total consumption.

The regional consumption is not distributed proportionately among the countries. For example, from 1984 data, two countries (France and Spain) account for 52% and with six other countries (Egypt, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, and Turkey), account for 94% of the total.

The average per caput consumption of fish and fishery products in the region is 11.8 kg. Within this average there are considerable variations between different countries, ranging from 0.5 kg (Lebanon) to 36.6 kg (Portugal). Consumption exceeds 10 kg in 8 countries:

- Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Malta. (10-19 kg),
- France (20-29 kg),
- Portugal and Spain (30 kg and above).

All countries of the region in the UN classification of developed countries are among those where per caput consumption exceeds 10 kg. In those countries, particularly France, Italy and Spain, improved technology and transport are progressively reducing the consumption of traditional forms of canned, smoked, and salted fisheries products, while all forms of prepared products, particularly frozen ones, are growing. In general, demand for seafood products in these countries is expected to grow as consumers' disposable income increases, and consumers realize the nutritional benefits of seafood.

A number of countries in the region (France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain) are linked directly to the considerable EEC seafood market. In 1992 any product entering the borders of one of these EEC countries in the region will get unlimited access to all EEC countries. This is a market of more than 320 million consumers, with one of the highest income levels in the world, and with a yearly per caput consumption of fish products ranging from 9.3 kg (Federal Republic of Germany) to 36.6 kg (Portugal).

1.4 Gross market data

The total population of 18 countries of the region was 363.8 million in 1985 (see Table 2), with:

- below 1 million for Cyprus and Malta,
- 1 to 10 million for Albania, Greece, Israel, Libya, and Tunisia,
- 10 to 50 million for Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Syria, Turkey, and Yugoslavia,
- 50 to 100 million for France and Italy.

Lebanon had no data. The two most populated countries have 31% of the population of the region and, with the next eight, have 92%. The five EEC member countries represent 47% of the total population.

The accumulated Gross National Product (GNP) of the region in 1985 was US$ 1 404 460 thousand million, with:

- GNP below US$ 10 thousand million for Cyprus, Malta, and Tunisia,

- GNP of US$ 10 to 50 thousand million for Egypt, Greece, Israel, Libya, Morocco, Portugal, Syria, and Yugoslavia,

- GNP of US$ 50 to 100 thousand million for Algeria and Turkey,

- GNP over US$ 100 thousand million for France, Italy, and Spain.

Albania and Lebanon had no data.

Economic power in the region is consistently more concentrated than population. The three countries with GNP over US$ 100 thousand million accounted for 76% of the total GNP of the region, and the top five countries with GNP over US$ 50 thousand million accounted for 84%. The GNP of the five EEC member states was 80% of the total.

Population growth in the region is relatively low. The average national annual percentages between 1973-85 varied between 0.3% (Italy) and 4% (Libya), with a regional average of 1.8%. Annual rates of seven countries remained below 1% (Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Yugoslavia); only in three countries did they exceed 3% (Algeria, Libya, and Syria).

During the same period the average national real growth rate of GNP was generally moderate, with extremes between 1.4% (Spain) and 8.1% (Egypt). The average for the region was 3.9%. Values exceeded 5% in only three countries (Egypt, Malta, and Syria).

The average GNP increase during the period exceeded that of the population in all countries, except Libya where the GNP per caput decreased (-2.6%). Increases above the regional average of 5% per annum occurred only in Egypt (5.4%) and Malta (6.7%).

Together with the relatively small increases in regional GNP and population changes in 1984-85, the most recent data on national fish catches also show a modest growth (see Table 3). Therefore it can be assumed that the current general gross markets for fish products remain similar to what they were in 1984.

1.5 Specific market data

The distribution of the many aquaculture species produced and/or traded throughout the region, as defined by the genera/species groups used in the annual collection of fisheries statistics by FAO, is summarized as follows:

- Group B11, carps and other cyprinids (carps, barbels and other cyprinids),

- Group B12, tilapias (tilapias and other cichlids),

- Group B13, largemouth blackbass, northern pike, catfish and other freshwater fish (miscellaneous freshwater fishes),

- Group B22, European eel (river eels),

- Group B23, salmon and trout (salmon, trout, smelts),

- Group B31, sole and turbot (flounders, halibuts, soles),

- Group B33, European sea bass and gilthead sea bream (redfishes, basses, congers),

- Group B34, mullets (jacks, mullets, sauries),

- Group B41, giant freshwater prawn (freshwater crustaceans),

- Group B45, penaeid shrimps (shrimps, prawns),

- Group B53, flat and cupped oysters (oysters),

- Group B54, mussels (mussels),

- Group B56, clams (clams, cockles, arkshells).

The accumulated, world landings of these 13 statistical groups account for about one-third of the total annual global fisheries landings (33.5% in 1986). Within the region as described, these same groups accounted for a total catch of 1 575 113 t in 1986. This was 5.1% of their combined contribution to the total world fisheries landings, and 31% of the total catches of the fleets owned by the countries of the region.

The analysis of aspects of fish trade in the region, which follows, is confined to these groups which are of importance to aquaculture.

FAO fish trade statistics for countries in the Mediterranean region do not record any international exchange concerning species in groups B11 (the carps), B12 (tilapias), B13 (pike and catfishes), B34 (mullets), and B41 (Macrobrachium). However, there is known to be both inter- and intraregional exchange for some of these species; for example, carp producers in France export most of their production (about 1 000 t per year) to Germany. There is also a small trade in mullets between Spain and Italy, and of exports of mullets from Tunisia and Turkey to Italy, which may amount to several hundred tonnes each year. Frozen Macrobrachium tails from Bangladesh can be purchased in France, and trade magazines in Israel report exports of small tonnages of fresh Macrobrachium to Germany and Switzerland. All the volumes concerned are small compared with the overall regional fisheries trade for the region, which is over 1 million tonnes (see Section 1.2, above), but so far they have been omitted by the international trade records.

For group B22, the European eels, the importation of fresh, chilled, and frozen eels by the region was 3 297 t in 1986, and exportation 1 572 t. The data for 1984 to 1986 inclusive, show net exports of eels, within the range 355 t (1985) and 1 572 t (1986). Countries involved in the trade are France, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey. Trade goes both ways for the first three countries, with Italy and Spain net importers, and France a net exporter. The other countries are exporters only. A consistent part of exports from France, Morocco, and Portugal are in the form of juveniles ("civelles") for consumption in Spain, and Italy imports some juveniles for cultivation and only adult fish for direct consumption.

In group B23, salmon and trout, the imports of fresh, chilled, and frozen salmon for the region were 39 993 t, and 4 776 t of canned salmon, and exports of 2 760 t and 366 t respectively. Imports of fresh, chilled, and frozen trout were 4 864 t, and exports were 8 744 t. The three years 1984-86 all show at the regional level a net import balance for salmon and a net export balance for trout, with the salmon imports widely exceeding exports for trout. Globally over the same period, there was a net import balance of salmonid fishes (all forms included) in the range 25 948 t (1985) to 39 839 t (1986).

The principal countries concerned with trade in salmon and trout in the region are France, Israel, Italy, and Spain. France is a net importer for both species, and Italy is a net importer of salmon and a net exporter of trout. Spain is a net importer of salmon, and seems to be moving from a situation of net importer of trout (1984-85) to that of a net exporter (1986). Israel is only a salmon importer.

France is the country most involved by far in the trade of salmon and trout. Alone, in 1986, it represented 86% of the salmon imports and 95% of the total accumulated trout plus salmon imports. It was also the largest salmon exporter (80% of the tonnage) in the Mediterranean, and the second main exporter of trout after Italy (45% compared with 51%, respectively).

In the north Mediterranean countries trout is generally regarded as a commonly available food, traded at prices which hardly exceed US$ 2/kg (whole fish). Although there is a trend toward the production of large trout (both in freshwater and seawater) for filleting and smoking, most of the trout trade still deals with live or fresh portion-size whole fish. On the other hand, salmon is recognized as a luxury food. Although some pan-size cultured fish are now available on the market, consumers generally demand salmon to be large fish (2 kg and over), mostly available in whole smoked sides or fillets, and often pre-sliced. This market form sustains its strong image as a luxury item. Trade prices are usually in excess of US$ 5/kg for the whole fish, and US$ 17/kg for smoked fillets.

In group B31, sole and turbot, the imports of fresh, chilled, and frozen flatfish were 28 136 t in 1986, and exports 6 676 t. The three years 1984-86 all showed net imports of flatfish, ranging from 15 075 t (1984) to 22 674 t (1985). The countries concerned are France, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Tunisia, and Turkey. France, Italy, Spain, and Greece were all net importers. Portugal was a net exporter (1984 and 1986) but became a net importer (1985). Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco were exporters only. France, Italy and Spain are the main markets of the import trade (95% of the total). France and Italy dominate the export trade (66% of the total), followed by Portugal, Morocco and Turkey (32% of the total). Most of the flatfish trade concerns high or medium value species like sole, turbot, and lemon sole (among which turbot is considered to be commercially viable for culture), at prices generally over US$ 3-4/kg (whole fish).

In group B33, redfishes, basses, and congers, imports of fresh, chilled, and frozen fish were 12 495 t in 1986, and exports 5 490 t. In the three years 1984-86 the region changed from being a net importer (1984 and 1986, with a maximum of 7 005 t in 1986) to a net exporter (753 t in 1985). The countries concerned were France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Tunisia, and Turkey. France and Italy were net importers. Spain changed from net exporter (1984-85) to net importer (1986). Greece was an importer only. Tunisia, Portugal, and Turkey are exporters only. In 1986, France was both the major importer and exporter, dominating the import trade with Spain (77% combined) and the export trade with Portugal (74% combined). The major species in this trade in terms of value are the European sea bass and the gilthead sea bream. These are two of the highest valued fish species in the region, usually traded at prices exceeding US$ 10/kg whole. Both species are cultured and have been the priority for aquaculture research in the region for the last 15 years.

In group B45, shrimps and prawns, imports of fresh, chilled and frozen products were 69 511 t in 1986, and exports were 11 067 t. The three years 1984-86 all show net imports, ranging from 43 921 t in 1985 to 90 530 t in 1984. The countries involved were Cyprus, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, and Turkey. France, Italy, and Spain were net importers. Portugal and Cyprus were importers only; Tunisia and Turkey were exporters only. France was the main importer and exporter (44% and 49% respectively, of the 1986 trade). France, Italy, and Spain alone represented 98% of the 1986 import trade, while France, Italy and Tunisia represented 91% of the export trade. Imports to the region originate world-wide because of the fluctuations in availability and price of international frozen products. Prices range from US$ 3 to 7/kg for whole frozen shrimps, and there is a progressively growing market for unpeeled shrimps. Preferential links to African exporters for high quality shrimps can result at times in increases in prices of up to 30% above the normal international trade prices. Exports from Turkey and Tunisia are mainly directed toward EEC countries.

In group B53, flat and cupped oysters, the imports of fresh, chilled, and frozen oysters were 3 187 t in 1986, and exports were 5 333 t. In the three years 1984-86 the region changed from being a net importer in 1984 (1 446 t) to a net exporter in 1985-86 (with a maximum of 3 364 t in 1985). The countries involved were France, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey. France and Italy were net exporters; Spain was a net importer. Morocco was an importer only, and Greece, Portugal, and Turkey were exporters only. The import trade was headed by Spain, closely followed by Italy and France, with a combined 99% of the total market in 1986. The export trade was dominated by France (54% of the 1986 total), followed by Italy and Greece (42% of the 1986 total). The trade is almost exclusively live shell-on animals, at prices around US$ 2/kg whole.

In group B54, mussels, the imports were 53 497 t in 1986 and exports were 24 141 t. The three years 1984-86 all showed net imports, with extremes from 27 382 t (1985) to 29 400 t (1984). The countries involved were France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and Morocco. During the three years France, Italy, Greece, and Portugal remained net importers, and Spain remained a net exporter. Turkey and Morocco were exporters only. France dominated the import trade (76% of the 1986 total), followed by Italy (24%). Spain made up most of the export trade (87%). The trade is almost exclusively live shell-on animals, at prices around US$ 0.4/kg.

In group B56, clams, imports in 1986 were 209 t, and exports were 560 t. The three years 1984-86 all showed net exports, within the range 351 t (1986) to 2 647 t (1985). The countries concerned were Italy, Spain, and Turkey. Italy was a net exporter, with Spain changing from a net exporter (1984) to net importer (1985-86). Turkey was an exporter only. The import trade in 1986 was dominated by Spain (64% of the total), and the export trade by Italy (62% of the total). However, there are some anomalies in the international statistics. For example, for the last few years in Tunisia there has been an increasing clam export business to France, Italy, and Spain, which totalled several hundred tonnes in 1986. If these exports are included in the data Italy remains the main exporter in the region but becomes also a net and the largest importer, and France appears as a transit country for Tunisian clams bound for Italy. The trade is almost exclusively live shell-on clams, at prices generally exceeding US$ 4/kg.

As a whole, the region in 1986 imported a total of 220 055 t of different fishery products in the groups detailed above, and exported only 67 729 t for a net import balance of 152 332 t. During the three years 1984-86, 8 countries of the 18 did not participate at all in the trade, namely Albania, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Malta, Syria, and Yugoslavia, or only participated at levels too low and in markets too unstructured to be recorded.

Participation by two countries was minimal, and exclusively as importers; these were Cyprus (for shrimps), and Israel (for salmon). Three countries participated exclusively as exporters (Tunisia and Turkey), or nearly exclusive exporters (Morocco). The five EEC countries (France, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal) participated actively in the trade, both as regular importers and exporters.

In the regional trade, three countries (France, Italy, and Spain) were active with all the groups of products analysed here. France was by far the major importer (59% in 1986), followed by Italy (21%), and Spain (19%). Spain was the major exporter (37%), followed by France (26%), and Italy (17%). However, as 84% of the Spanish exports were mussels, a commodity of much lower price per kg than all others concerned here, the value of French and possibly Italian exports exceeded those of Spain.

With high value species, the international trade in the region was mostly based upon direct contracts between dealers for well-defined species, sizes, and qualities, at a fixed price and a fixed delivery date. Products traded in this way do not transit through national auction markets. For example, imported mussels, and an increasing amount of cultured salmon from Norway, transit through the national auction market at Rungis in France.

Countries, or groups of countries within the region, may impose tariffs on the importation of certain fish products, including those produced by aquaculture, to protect their own producers. In particular this applies to the EEC countries which impose the following tariffs on cultured products:

- salmon (fresh and frozen)


- smoked salmon and all trout


- all other freshwater fish except carp


- all molluscs except oysters below 40 g


This table illustrates that higher tariffs protect EEC producers of table-size molluscs, trout, and smoked salmon, and lower tariffs facilitate the importation of fresh and frozen salmon which are then processed and exported by the highly successful and active European salmon smoking industry.

1.6 Information for the trade

There is no information for the aquaculture products' trade specifically organized at the regional level for the Mediterranean countries. The FAO Yearbooks of Fisheries Statistics and Fisheries Trade Products provide records of national and international fisheries trade as a whole. Annual fisheries statistics are also stored on an FAO database, called FISHDAB. As yet, aquaculture statistics are not separated.

One international marketing information service available to the region is INFOFISH, although it does not differentiate aquaculture products as yet. INFOFISH assists the fishing industry and governments by establishing contacts between buyers and sellers of fish products, and providing technical information and advice on post-harvest aspects of fisheries, such as handling, processing, equipment selection, and quality assurance. INFOFISH is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and its working language is English.

INFOFISH is one of four regional services, the others being in Africa (called INFOPECHE), the Arab Countries (INFOSAMAK), and Latin America (INFOPESCA). INFOSAMAK has information most relevant to the Mediterranean region. This network of services produces a fortnightly news bulletin called "Trade News", in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. This deals with prices, cold storage holdings, short-term market trends, and business opportunities. The network also publishes a two-monthly magazine called "INFOFISH International" (incorporating Marketing Digest) in English, which contains articles on market analysis, new products, processing, packaging, equipment, and other aspects of fisheries, including aquaculture, with summaries in the other three languages. Again, as yet, little information is relevant to aquaculture in the region.

A fifth member of the service is the FAO computerized system of fish marketing called GLOBEFISH. This database stores original information collected by INFOFISH and the other regional services on such things as production and trade statistics, price series, the supply and demand situation, information on aquaculture, investment, joint ventures, and general economic data relevant to fisheries. Specific searches are made on request. FAO also produces "Globefish Highlights", which is a quarterly analysis of medium trends. It is based on the information in the databank and is distributed as a supplement to the "Trade News" (above) in four languages.

Another valuable source of marketing information for the trade is the "Eurofish Report", published by Agra Europe. This is a fortnightly information newsletter on trade and production activities in Europe, and of interest to Europe in dealing commonly with fisheries and aquaculture products, and relevant EEC legislation.

Many national producers' associations (such as associations of trout farmers, oyster farmers, mussel farmers, etc.) provide some specific information for the trade, collected with a view to the particular interests of their members.

The public has access to information on national tonnages and price statistics from auction markets at most of the landing harbours and on the leading national markets (such as Rungis in France, and Milan in Italy) of all the EEC countries. Such information is not always available or readily accessible in the other countries. Also, periodically, the national trade commissions make reviews of importers, exporters, and fish trade in the other countries of major importance to the national trade.

Specific advertising of products through the media, and quality labelling and brochures for consumers, with presentation of products, recipes, etc., exist to a limited extent for trout, mussels, and oysters in France, for mussels in Italy and Spain, and for trout in Italy. They are usually published by producers' associations, often with financial assistance from government fisheries marketing authorities. All other products are marketed without any specific information effort.

Strict rules for hygiene and sanitary control are enforced by the fisheries authorities of the three principal countries involved in the trade of live fish products (France, Italy, and Spain), including sanitary labelling and compulsory depuration for all products imported from non-sanitary safe areas, and from all non-EEC countries.

At the local level there are several special bulletins and newsletters to be found in the major production centres, as well as articles in local and regional journals on a wide range of events in the aquaculture sector. For example, a private company in France, Stratege Telematique, began in 1986 to advertize for electronic information on product prices, buying and selling of farms, and seed collection. The information is available on the national telephone network through the widely distributed "MINITEL" terminals.

1.7 Technical assistance projects in the sub-sector

There are no international or bilateral technical assistance projects in the region regarding the trade of aquaculture-related fisheries products. The most important technical assistance projects in the sub-sector are INFOFISH and INFOSAMAK - the regional marketing information and advisory services specializing in fisheries, but in Asia and the Pacific, and in the Near East regions, respectively. INFOFISH was financed at its inception by the Government of Norway for a three year period. It is now partly financed by the Government of Norway, by income from its services and publications, and by contributions from its member countries. INFOSAMAK is financed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Although aquaculture information is not separated as yet, these two services provide information to the sector in the Mediterranean directly, and their publications contain many useful articles on marketing aquaculture products.

There have been several international and bilateral aid projects for aquaculture in the region, particularly for assistance in the elaboration of national development planning, research, and training. At times consumption and marketing have been included as sub-components. For example, the Mediterranean Regional Aquaculture Project (MEDRAP), a regional aid project funded by the UNDP and the Government of Italy between 1980 and 1987 for transfer of technology and training in aquaculture concerning all Mediterranean countries, placed some emphasis on regional marketing. Two new and independent projects may be funded by these same donors for the region in 1989, both executed by FAO. Also a national project in Greece, funded by UNDP and executed by FAO, to assist in the elaboration of a technical plan for development of marine and inland aquaculture included a marketing study.

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