The FAO is helping Ukraine improve the safety of its fishery products and boost exports to Europe.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN said based on findings of an assessment in 2016 and conversations with food safety authorities it identified a need for specific protocols in fisheries and food safety.

A project began in July 2017 with the State Service of Ukraine on Food Safety and Consumer Protection, the State Agency of Fisheries, the Association of Ukrainian importers of fish and seafood and the Association of Ukrainian Aquaculture Society.

It will devise consistent fish safety regulations, build capacity for inspections and for labs analyzing fish safety and train business operators. Work continues until April next year and is funded by Norway.

Last month, the Ukrainian Ministry of Health recorded the eighth death this year due to botulism which was linked to homemade fish. Since the beginning of the year, 80 cases have been reported.

As part of the project, FAO has held two workshops to train Ukrainian fish inspectors. Esther Garrido Gamarro, a lead technical officer for the project, said training has been successful so far.

“We combined classroom training with field visits to fish markets where the inspectors could have hands-on training on the types of inspections they would carry out. This included an inspection of the fish market facilities, current practices, and organoleptic evaluation. This practical training with the group was an ideal way for the inspectors to test out their training in a real-life environment,” she said.

Fisheries and aquaculture play a significant role in Ukraine’s economy. In 2015, 8,600 tons of fish, crustaceans, fish products, and other aquatic invertebrates were exported from Ukraine with a value of $17.7 million, according to the FAO.

Ukraine mainly exports fresh, chilled and canned fish to neighboring countries and only exports 98 tons of frozen fish to Europe. As the European Union and Ukrainian standards for fish safety and inspections are not harmonized, only a small percentage of Ukrainian fish exporters meeting EU requirements can export into that market.

Training is helping to align Ukrainian fish safety state control and handling practices and guidelines with the European Union. This would allow the country to export fish products to the world’s largest seafood importer.

The project includes awareness-raising workshops for official food safety fish inspectors from the different institutions and laboratories and forms of capacity-building for new responsibilities using a training-of-trainers approach. Capacity building in labs is helping to cover testing needs, including microbiology, biochemistry, and DNA testing.

Garrido Gamarro said DNA testing is important to identify fish fraud and rigorous analysis is needed to export into EU markets.

“Additionally, through this project, we are working to build capacity for business operators who will face new requirements that will become mandatory once the new regulations are in place. One of these will be the need for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system certification, something for which all stakeholders must be adequately trained,” she said.

“It is an important opportunity to trade fish products into a major import market such as the EU, but we want to ensure that the Ukrainians are prepared for these changes and able to meet the new challenges. This project allows for extensive capacity development opportunities and knowledge sharing designed to help them access greater trade opportunities, and to receive higher earnings for their products.”

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