Myanmar: Saudi Arabia’s ban on fishing imports from Myanmar to be discussed

A meeting will be held with officials from the Saudi Arabia embassy with regards to Saudi Arabia imposing a temporary suspension on fishing imports from Myanmar, said U Than Myint, Union Minister of the Ministry of Commerce.

“A meeting is planned with the economic counsellor of the embassy in Nay Pyi Taw, where the deputy-minister will be meeting the counsellor,” said U Myo Nyunt, secretary of Myanmar Fishery Products Processors & Exporters Association (MPEA).

Last month, the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) announced a temporary suspension on fish and prawn imports from Vietnam, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India, which will take effect on April 1.

The suspension was extended to other countries after inspections on fishery products were conducted in Vietnam. A delegation of several regulators, including SFDA, Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture and Saudi Aquaculture Society conducted inspections of 24 Vietnamese facilities that exported to Saudi Arabia.

The delegation found that only nine facilities met the hygiene requirements of Saudi Arabia, Vietnam News reported. The suspension will be in place until the facilities complied with Saudi Arabia’s requirements.

Fishery products from Myanmar are directly distributed to Saudi Arabia or indirectly distributed through the UAE, which acts as an intermediary. Fishery exports to Saudi Arabia bring in between $ 25 million to $35 million yearly. More than 21,000 tonnes of Myanmar fish and prawns are shipped yearly to Saudi Arabia.

As the temporary suspension of fishing imports can cause massive losses and damages to fishing businesses and the nation’s export revenue, Myanmar’s government will negotiate with the Saudi Arabian government to get trade back to normal, the MPEA secretary U Win Khaing said.

Saudi Arabia’s decision comes after the US also announced that it would no longer purchase prawns caught from Myanmar seas. The reason for the restriction by the US was that Myanmar fishing boats and nets did not have turtle excluder devices (TED) installed.

“As the US said that it will not approve unless TEDs are installed, the Marine Fisheries Association has given their word that they will install them. It looks like if our side has installed the devices, the US will lift the ban,” U Win Khaing said..

The US buys mostly small prawns from Myanmar and in the fiscal year of 2016-17, more than 3,500 tonnes of aquatic products were shipped to the US.