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Speech: EU Head Of Delegation For The Pacific

Speech

Delivered By Ambassador Wiepke Van Der Goot
EU Head Of Delegation For The Pacific

Celebration Ceremony Of Fiji's Re-Listing
In The EU Approved List Of Third Countries To Export Their Fisheries Products On The EU Market At The Holiday Inn, Suva, 18 March 2011
[Check Against Delivery]

• The Hon. Minister of Health, Dr. Neil Sharma
• Permanent Secretary of Health, Dr. Salanieta Saketa
• Permanent Secretary of Fisheries, Commander Viliame Naupoto
• Mr. Jope Tamani and the officials of the Food Unit in the MoH.
• Officials from the Ministry of Industry and Trade
• Representatives of the Fishing Industries
• Colleagues of the Diplomatic Corps
• Distinguished guests
• Ladies and Gentlemen

Good evening, Ni Sa Bula and Namaste!

Thank you very much for inviting me here tonight, to officially celebrate the relisting of Fiji in the EU approved list of countries able to export their fishery products on to the EU market.

Not only Fijians, but also Europeans like fish, in fact Europeans are big consumers of fishery products with a per capita consumption of 25 Kg per year on average, making the EU the biggest importer of fish in the world with a total market of around 500 million consumers. In fact, no less than 60 % of EU's required fishing products come from third countries.

Please allow me to tell you a little on the background of how it came that Fiji was delisted and is now relisted again.

First of all, in order to safeguard the quality of imported products and at the same time preserving and sustaining the exploitation of seafood resources, the EU has developed it own Common Fisheries Policy.

Within this policy, the EU legislation on food safety plays an important role in order to ensure a high level of food safety for EU citizens.

Therefore you will not be surprised that the EU has set strict rules regarding the quality of imported products covering the conditions of fishery products originated from third countries.

These rules specify that any fishery product entering into the EU market must be: 1) originated from an EU approved third country, and 2) come from an EU approved establishment and 3) be accompanied by an appropriate health certificate.

In 2004, we noted for the first time that something was wrong with tuna originating from Fiji, as mercury was found in some tuna loins. 3 years later, in 2007, several people in France fell seriously ill after eating tuna originating from Fiji. Consequently an EU inspection team visited Fiji and found out that Fiji, unfortunately, was far from complying with the requirements I just mentioned.

The inspection team identified serious deficiencies in respect of the standards being applied by the Fisheries Competent Authority while most of the fishing vessels and establishments failed to meet the EU requirements. Adequate standards for fish products export were lacking and the sanitary quality was not guaranteed.

Therefore, as serious risks for consumers' health could not be excluded when consuming fisheries project coming from Fiji, Fiji was banned from exporting fish onto the EU market.

However, ladies and gentlemen, thanks to the hard and persistent work of few dedicated people, Fiji has now reversed this situation and is now eligible again to export fish products to the EU.


It is no mean feat that all this has been done within a time span of only 3 years. Something that, in my view, is remarkable and that definitely merits congratulations.
Therefore, I believe we should commend the Fiji authorities, the Competent Authority and in particular Mr. Jope Tamani and the Food Unit team for this outstanding performance. All this has only been possible thanks to the dedication and tireless work of Mr. Tamani and his team and some of the leaders in the fishing industry.. Congratulations Ladies and gentlemen!
At the same time, I am happy to say, that we were able to provide some assistance through the EU SFP Programme for fisheries in the person of Dr John Esser, followed by several other short term Technical Assistance missions and the provision of some cars and lab equipment.
Furthermore I would like to acknowledge the assistance from the Applied Sciences Laboratory as well as the support given by several Government Ministries (in casu, Health, Fisheries and the Trade department of Foreign Affairs).
With their joint efforts, Fiji is now back on the list and is able to export fisheries products to the EU again and can Europeans enjoy again the fine fish coming from Fiji. I will be looking forward eating Fiji sashimi, when going back to Europe!

Ladies and gentlemen, this result should now encourage Fiji to take full advantage of the possibilities of global sourcing under the Market Access Regulation or – even better – under the interim EPA by notifying the EU about its implementation.

Finally, as only 2 companies meet EU standards so far, I would like to encourage the fishing industry to continue with the upgrading of the fisheries export facilities and to increase the number of approved fishing vessels, as this would further enhance the economic development of Fiji.

Ladies and Gentlemen! Today, we are witnessing some great strides in the upgrading of the fishing industry in Fiji. From our side we are pleased to have been one of the partners in this challenging and, in the end, a very rewarding venture.

Once again, my congratulations.

Thank you for your attention.
Vinaka Vakalevu.

ENDS

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