Local frozen fish exporters meet US standards

http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/more.php?news_id=133343&date=2011-04-22

US gives all-clear to BD shrimps
Local frozen fish exporters meet US standards
Sonia H Moni

The United States has no qualms about the quality of Bangladeshi shrimps and labour and safety standards in the country’s thousands of fish farms and processing plants, an industry leader said on Thursday.

Syed Mahmudul Huq, chairman of Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation, said US experts visited the Bangladeshi shrimp industry over the last two years and their reports have given the sector the all-clear signal.

“It is good news for the frozen fish sector. It is the result of a coordinated effort of the government and stakeholders in the industry,” the BSFF chairman told the FE.

He said the shrimp industry has cleaned up its negative image, weaning itself off child labour and upgrading the processing and freezing facilities to world standard in an effort to allay the fears of western consumers.

“Three high-level teams visited local shrimp farms and processing units since 2009. After returning home, they haven’t come up with any new suggestion, which means they are now satisfied with our labour and safety standards, he said.

“We have been able to eliminate child labour completely from the shrimp industry and provided training, workshop to the workers and shrimp farmers so that they can implement global standards strictly,” he added.

The three teams made the visit after the top US trade union group, the American Federation of Labour and Congress Industrial Organisation (AFL-CIO), lodged complaint with the United States Trade Representative (USTR) about Bangladesh’s shrimp industry.

The influential group prodded the US government to scrap the limited duty-free access facility to the Bangladeshi shrimps if Dhaka fails to comply with its tough labour standards including total elimination of child labour.

The US Congress held public hearing on Bangladeshi labour standards in Washington DC on the AFL-CIO complaint twice in November 2007 and May 2009.

Mr Huq who attended the hearings on behalf of the Bangladeshi shrimp exporters said Bangladesh shrimp industry has graduated into a top global player in terms of quality and labour practices.

BSFF has since identified 10 shrimp processing plants in Chittagong and Khulna as models to implement labour standard compliances in line with the country’s labour laws, 2006.

To meet the global standards, top exporters such as Meenhar Sea Food, Kuliarchar, Atlas, Jalalabad, National, Rupsha Fish, Fresh Food and Sobi Sea Food have upgraded their facilities and trained up factory staff, workers, and contractors.

He said BSFF will organise a seminar on success stories of labour compliances in the local shrimp industry next week.

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