Neither the present government made diplomatic efforts to convince the EU to remove its ban from Pakistan’s seafood imports, nor it implemented the union’s specifications at fish harbour, despite it spanned over four years in office, sources said on Monday.
During the rule of former military chief, General Pervez Musharraf (Retd), the EU slapped Pakistan with an indefinite ban, by de-listing the country’s 11 seafood exporting companies on the basis of poor fisheries management. The ban struck the country’s fisheries exporting sector in April 2007. Since onwards, the poor fisheries management continues at the country’s largest harbour, as political intermingling plagued the process through which the country had to get rid of the ban.
“Fish and shrimp are thrown on floor of the auction hall without cold chain maintenance, red spits of paan are obvious there while seafood is handled improperly,” fisheries sources told Business Recorder on Monday. Whereas, Karachi Fish Harbour Authority (KFHA) showed reluctance to play its role despite it is the official “owner” of the country’s largest fish harbour that exports over $300 million seafood world-wide, except Europe.
“There is only primary reason which disallows KFHA to act what the law of the harbour demands from it,” said the officials, blaming “the persistent political interference behind the poor condition of harbour”. Pakistan’s shrimp exports to the EU were about $50 million a year when its key 11 seafood exporting companies came under the ban in 2007, according to the Marine Fisheries Department.
The ban has nearly grown into sixth year while many stakeholders are still unsure whether the government has ever exerted efforts to streamline affairs at home and convince the Europeans of its seafood quality maintenance. KFHA still blames Fishermen Co-operative Society (FCS) for the all the mismanagement at harbour, says “landing and handling of seafood is the primary responsibility of the FCS”.
“The authority has spent at least Rs 250 million to provide plastic crates, stainless hydraulic trolleys, forklifts, insulated plastic containers and plastic baskets,” it says, adding that these were the basic provisions through which seafood handling could be improved. “The FCS is looking into all affairs and it has constituted different committees to regulate the harbour and stop the financial leakages,” said Director FCS, Asif Bhatti.
The KFHA shrugged off its responsibility to regulate affairs inside the red-zone of the harbour, saying “the sensitive area which includes seafood landing jetties and auction hall falls under the FCS management”. Sources believe neither the present nor the past governments have ever made “serious” efforts to remove the ban, which is like a “stigma” on the country’s seafood exporting sector. The ban also deprives Pakistan of valuable foreign exchange every year, they said.
Asif Bhatti said the newly elected body of FCS has just assumed powers and will soon it will undertake the job to ensure safe and proper landing of seafood at the harbour. He, however, insisted on sharing the blame with MFD and KFHA. “The harbour’s affairs are handled by the FCS, KFHA and MFD and all are responsible for their roles,” he said, adding that “the FCS cannot be singled out for all mismanagement”. “We should be able to show efficiency no matter EU’s inspectors visit the harbour or not,” he said, adding that it is badly needed to improve the exporting sector capacity and credibility through a better management.