Bangladesh Shrimp Market Consultation “More shrimp, less ice, no cheating on the size”.

March 4, 2019 February 26 – 28 2019, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal (STIP) and Solidaridad Network hosted the Bangladeshi Shrimp Market Consultation and Trade Promotion event, with the support of the Dutch embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi embassy in Den Haag, Netherlands. The participants discussed the Bangladeshi shrimp strategy and national action plan, giving the Bangladeshi delegation feedback on its suitability to EU market realities, compliance, the challenges and opportunities in EU-Bangladesh shrimp trade, certification, a premium supply chain, and the possible introduction of Pacific whiteleg, among other pertinent topics. 
 

A Breakthrough for the Shrimp Industry

Under Chatham House Rules, a high-level Bangladeshi delegation consisting of representatives from the government of Bangladesh, and about 20 leading exporters, joined a diverse range of EU shrimp industry stakeholders, with more than 50 representatives, including about 30 importers from the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium and the U.K. Representatives from DG Sante, wholesalers, retailers and other industry professionals were also present. Early in the day, Sylvie Coulon of the EU DG Sante announced that the findings of the DG Sante’s November audit were very positive and reflected the work done by the Bangladeshi government and industry over many years. This set the proceedings off on a positive note that continued throughout the day. It was remarked in the first hour of the programme, and many times after that, that this was the first time that such a broad representation of shrimp industry stakeholders came together to have a candid discussion. That a group of people who are not accustomed to talking openly with one another spent a whole day doing so, exchanging constructive criticism, and fostering cooperation. These dialogues have been two years in the making and, as one participant warned, “The challenge now is to follow through. This day should be the beginning and not an end.” We consider the level of openness shown on Tuesday a real breakthrough for the shrimp industry.

The Path Forward- A Consortium for Change?

“Everybody here is in the same industry. We are a team and must think of the whole supply chain as belonging to all of us. We all have a shared responsibility to take action and shorten the supply chain to maintain the farm fresh quality”, one participant said. So many participants agreed that several people volunteered to start a consortium of Bangladeshi black tiger buyers and suppliers working together to develop a code of conduct to which all members would adhere- a way of the industry policing itself. The desire is to create a brand, which would promote Bangladeshi Black Tiger Shrimp as a premium product in the EU market. Other industry organisations present also agreed to take an active role in the conversation. Bangladeshi black tiger shrimp is a beautiful product when it comes off of the farms but after having gone through several intermediaries, becomes a much lower quality product by the time it reaches the processors. Pressure from all sides to maximise profit means that often both importers and exporters cut corners when bringing the product to the market, in order to stay ahead- devaluing the black tiger shrimp in the process. Other suggested solutions for getting Bangladeshi black tiger shrimp into the premium market were:
  • Adoption of robust cluster farming model to improve efficiency in backwards and forward market linkages for access to quality of inputs, services, logistics and market structures,
  • increasing production with improved extensive farming,
  • to achieve EU market standards, including certification and brand reputation, to reach the high-end market
  • concentrating on larger sized shrimp,
  • accurate labelling of products
  • and, government and sector organisation intervention in cases of fraud.
Once said, “More shrimp, less ice, no cheating on the size.” became the unofficial slogan of the movement that began at these dialogues and there was talk of further discussions in Brussels at the Global Seafood Expo, this year, and a proposal that several smaller working groups are set up to work more intensively together, attacking specific problems. We expect to see a bright future for the Bangladeshi shrimp industry and closer ties with their colleagues in the EU market, moving forward.

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