Aftermath Of COVID-19 in Seafood Traceability

, 6 minute read

Quick summary: Disruption in fish production, new regulations, and increasing consumer demand for safe products has made the seafood supply chain traceability the new norm with blockchain solutions.

Aftermath Of COVID-19 - Seafood Traceability

Disruption in fish production, new regulations, and increasing consumer demand for safe products make the seafood supply chain traceability the new norm for the post-COVID-19 scenario. 

Blockchain-based supply chain management for agriproducts during the pandemic era is just a glimpse of what’s to come for seafood supply chain management

Read on to learn how the latest regulations have affected India’s trade scenario and the technology and certification bodies to help achieve the new food standards.

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In addition to the already stringent global seafood regulations aimed at getting rid of the three main problems in the industry: overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and bycatch, those arising in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic have hit Indian companies particularly hard, affecting the livelihood of the fishing community in a country that stands the fourth in global production. 

China, Japan, the United States, and the European Union have banned, at some point, Indian seafood products due to alleged non-compliance with recent regulations. Still, starting the year 2021, China has begun a new ban alleging failure to pass COVID tests.

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For the state of Kerala, for which the Chinese market alone accounts for about 25% of its seafood exports, the recent regulations have significantly affected the state’s seafood exports and call for government intervention.

India’s Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) continues to take precautionary measures. It works towards creating more state-of-the-art laboratories to analyze export materials, as it did back in 2013 with the finding of shrimps with antibiotics residues, which has been a recurring problem. 

So far, MPEDA has four Quality Control Laboratories (Kochi (Kerala), Bhimavaram, Nellore (Andhra Pradesh), and Bhubaneswar (Odisha)) for testing fish and fishery products for Chemical residues. All of which are accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), which is a member of the International Laboratory Accreditation Co-operation (ILAC)   

The laboratories are undertaking the newest implementation of the National Residue Control Plan (NRCP) for aquaculture products as per EU requirement under directive 96/23/EC and testing samples under Pre-Export Testing, which is mandatory for the export of seafood consignments. 

In the case of China, the delay in customs clearance at its ports responds to their newest Food Safety Law Enforcement (2015), which mandates food companies to establish a traceability system for verifying a product’s origin and regulations compliance and has forced many other exporters to ship food consignments to other developed countries. 

However, what is happening in China’s ports and the EU’s newest testing requirements, offers a glimpse of what is to come regarding exports in the sector. Beyond the latest tests that look for COVID traces in food, there is no doubt that blockchain-based food traceability, click here to read more about how it works, has come to stay as the essential requirement across all the food sectors.  

International organizations such as the non-profit Marine Stewardship Council and the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA)are proof of this and work together with governmental and non-governmental bodies to eradicate IUU fishing by tackling every issue in the seafood value chain, including those related to the newest requirements.

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Illegal fishing is deeply connected to malpractices such as overfishing, the exploited workforce, and the overuse of antibiotics; unreported fishing is linked to unsafe and unapproved fishing methods with counterfeit as its backbone; and unregulated fishing with a lack of marine conservational methods. According to the Seafood Source report,  

Economic losses associated with IUU fishing are estimated at between US$10 billion and US$36.4 billion annually. IUU fishing also has a significant impact on the food security of one billion people, who depend on seafood as their primary source of protein. 

Whether it is to help safeguard the marine ecosystem and protect all stakeholders involved, or for the economic incentives that come with having certificates or labels that guarantee them as safe, leading global companies such as Sainsbury’s, Whole Foods MarketAP2HIThe Fishin’Company, and Orca Bay Foods have already a traceability system in place for their seafood supply chain or are walking towards it.

Where is India standing now on seafood supply chain traceability?

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According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, nearly 30% of marine and fish annually produced in India is exported. 

Technology like blockchain that adds value and infrastructure in the exports of its marine products will prove essential to the expansion of aquaculture and in tapping unexplored resources. 

Although the application of blockchain-based traceability for the meat industry is developing ( globally probably over the last four years) in India, brands like Walmart are already using it to trace shrimp from Andhra Pradesh shipped to selected Sam’s Club locations in the United States.

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Shrimp is India’s largest agricultural export, with the United States as its largest market, with a 46% share of India’s shrimp exports by value in 2018. 

The leading supplier of frozen shrimp, Devi Sea Food, has also integrated blockchain-based traceability for its shrimp processing, farms, hatchery, feed mills, and direct distribution to customers in the USA, which has opened the doors for obtaining certification programs such as The Global Aquaculture Alliance’s (GAA) Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP). 

Third-party certification programs, such as GAA and MSC, endorse good practices, follow scientific standards, and rigorous procedures, which require visibility of the entire supply chain and its agents to reinforce the safety measures for a risk-free food supply chain.  

Seafood traceability in the fishing sector is not a trend but an evolutionary action that will enable fishing companies to stay afloat to withstand future, unpredictable waves such as COVID-19 and its respective sanitary restrictions that will prevail and from which lessons should be learned. Fish traceability is vital for food safety, to prove legality and verify sustainability. For seafood traders, lack of product origin information and seafood supply chain transparency can pose significant risks.

TraceX is a key enabler for achieving supply chain transparency in the seafood value chain.  

The TraceX seafood traceability solution helps seafood companies leap full-scale traceability. In doing so, it not only helps establish positive corporate social responsibility but also commits to the conservation of fisheries, the ecosystem, and fairer and more equitable supply chains for all seafood stakeholders. 

The oceans are expressing a lot of stress and the stakes on sustainable fishing is going up. See how seafood traceability helps sustainable fishing

The fish from sustainable fisheries, though caught from different sources and differing species can be traced throughout the seafood supply chain. Today’s over-engaged consumers are increasingly seeking out products that tick against ethical sourcing, environmental impact and sustainability. Climate change is altering the ocean ecosystems and the blockchain traceability solutions from TraceX can drive sustainability in the fish supply chain

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