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Despite a ban by European Union on import of Pakistani fish and fish-related products, the export of seafood is picking up as the local industry makes inroads in new markets.

European countries were the leading importers before the ban on seafood from Pakistan in April 2007 because of poor hygienic conditions at the fish harbors. The loss in exports since then has been estimated at USD 50 million (EUR 37.8 million) per annum or a drop in earnings by a quarter, said a fish trader.

Efforts are however being made to convince European countries to resume buying while improving quality standards set by the EU importers. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, export of fish and fish products increased 1.61 per cent during the first four months of this fiscal year to USD 98.697 million (EUR 74.6 million) from USD 97.131 million (EUR 73.4 million) in the same period last year.

In terms of volume, seafood exports increased by 14.36 per cent, up from 37,592 metric tons last year to 42,990 metric tons during the period under review.

Sindh Governor Dr Ishrat ul Ebad, who visited the UK last month, held talks with experts from the fishery sector to pave the way for lifting of ban on export of shrimps from Pakistan to the members of the European Union. Dr Ebad held talks with experts and consultants in Belfast to address the reservations of the EU community. He assured them that international quality standards would be strictly complied for export quality shrimps and importers would have no cause to complain.

The required standards, he assured experts, would be maintained, right from the fish catch procedure and practices to their dispatch to final destinations. Special care would be taken to improve hygiene and quality of products. Sindh Governor and the EU experts extensively discussed modes that may help Pakistan acquire the required export quality standards. The experts stressed the need to promote modern aquaculture techniques.

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