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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

FSQA trains fishery inspectors on EU requirements

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By Olimatou Coker

Food Safety and Quality Authority (FSQA) on Monday commenced a 5-day training for 15 fishery inspectors on EU requirements, which aims to place fishery products on the EU market, development and application of tools on official control along the fishery products supply chain

The capacity building activity, held at Metzy Hotel, hopes to improve Gambia’s access to the EU and other relevant international markets for the country’s fishery products.

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The government of the Gambia, through the Food Safety and Quality Authority, was recently granted a Sustained Training Mission by the European Union to enhance and improve the safety and quality standards of Gambian fishery products exported to the EU. Among other objectives, the mission principally aims to improve the technical capacity and competence of staff involved in the official control, inspection and certification of fishery products destined for the EU market.

Momodou Bah, the Director General of Food Safety and Quality Authority, said often they focus too much on the trade potentials of fishing  and ignore the safety aspect. “Both at the national and consumer levels, often we falter in that area. The contaminations related to fish are very high and then toxicity levels can be very high. So some of them can be in the high risk category. And I’m sure during the training you will find out a lot about this.”

DG Bah said the importance of this is to make sure that we are protecting the endangered species and that they  are not also abusing and misusing their feedstocks. “And that’s why the fishing department and the Ministry of Fisheries is also very particular in this role and the stakeholders. The stakeholders that are actually private and public sector are also crucial in this because at the end of the day, they are the ones applying these regulations. They are the ones applying these quality procedures, manuals and processes. That one’s actually ensuring that the safety and the quality is maintained.”

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He added that it’s not just about accessing markets, but also maintaining our market with the EU. “We have the market. So how do we sustain it? How do we maintain it? And part of this training is called the sustainable training mission. So it’s how to sustain it. We can build it or we should sustain it at all times, and not at all cost. So that requires revenue. The economic driver that is provided by fish and fishery products in the Gambia is maintained or even improved.”

Patrice Farrell, food safety consultant, said what they are  here for is to try to help to give an understanding of European Union controls that are required in the fishery sector.

“We  have different levels and I think because of the different levels we can bring both of the experiences to the table. We don’t have every answer to every question. For sure. We would like you to ask many questions. If we can answer we will answer. If we cannot answer, we will get to the answer because we are all experts in different areas.”

He added that between now and next Friday when they finish, “we hope we will have maybe given some better understanding of the requirements that will help Gambia to export efficient products into the EU and this is our main mission to help.”

Momodou Njie, fisheries and food expert, said you might realize that fish is a very special commodity in terms of its controls and control requirements.

He urged participants to pay attention to the requirements for exporting to the EU that concern everyone. “And for the fishery inspectors, I will urge you to also take greater interest in ensuring that you learn the lessons that will be provided here”.

He added that the  EU is a very strict block of countries in terms of control of food systems, and in particular official control of fishery products. “You might have some experiences sending fish out and it is rejected. And that is because it does not meet the requirements. So following a regional training program for all countries in West Africa, Gambia has come out  to be a special case. We were able to negotiate and to have the assistance of the European Union tool”.

Famara Darboe, aquaculture specialist at FAO, described the training as a very important session.

“You agree with me that one of the policy objectives of fisheries sector is to generate foreign exchange. Fisheries is contributing to the GDP but mainly in the area of generating foreign exchange and you cannot generate foreign exchange if you don’t have quality products. No one will buy your fish that doesn’t have good quality so you can see the importance of participating in this training.”

Darboe added that FAO is very pleased to be invited as they are very  concerned with food globally and nothing is considered food if it is not fit for human consumption. “So you must ensure that the quality of products that are going to be generated here and not only for European markets even though you know all local markets, ensure that the quality is maintained and it is going to be qualified as food”.

He also called on participants to take the training seriously and be good ambassadors for this country in order to maintain the country’s reputation. “We are going to play a very important role in maintaining our reputation in the European market and not only in European markets on the world market. So you have a very important role to play”.

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