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President Temer oversee seafood sector, casting doubt on shrimp trade opening

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The liberalization of the shrimp market in South America’s largest country is unclear after oversight of Brazil’s fisheries and aquaculture secretariat was transferred last week to be put under the president’s direct control.

Following the senate’s approval, the secretariat is now under the direct supervision of president Michel Temer, who met representative of the fishing and processing industry last week, on Oct. 4.

Since the downgrading of the fishery regulatory body from a ministry to a secretariat in 2015 to cut costs, this is the third transfer of supervision of the institution. The secretariat, still led by Dayvson Franklin de Souza, will now report directly to Eliseu Padilha, the president’s chief of staff.

The move comes amid legal uncertainty, a lack of structure and resources, and widespread dissatisfaction of the private sector with the government’s position regarding fishing and aquaculture in the country, local publication Porto e Navios reported.

Temer, who was slapped with a second round of corruption charges last month according to the New York Times, has said he is pleased by the sector’s growth prospects.

Representatives of Brazilian fish and seafood processors as well as of the country’s main fishing associations Abipesca and Conepe, which were present at the meeting, told the president that the country’s sector in could grow by 200% in a decade and create one million new jobs, sources present told Undercurrent News.

“He [Temer] said that what we need most in Brazil now is creating jobs to assure the recovery of the economy,” one source said.

“We think that’s a good thing,” the president of the Brazilian processors’ association Abipesca, Eduardo Lobo said, referring to the management change.

“The president promised he will give the support and assistance required and also noted that there is a huge opportunity on production, exports and job creation. It [fish] will be the only protein under his care,” Lobo said.

Other trade issues

Representatives of the local aquaculture sector were not present at the meeting but could “join the project later on”, sources said.

About 35 people, including two senators and six congress people attended the meeting last week.

Temer might not have been fully briefed on the ongoing shrimp liberalization process, but a legislator vocal about fisheries and aquaculture issues said that the president doesn’t take a favorable view on shrimp imports.

“It’s hard to say what will happen,” the source noted, referring to shrimp liberalization.

“Abipesca is favorable to shrimp imports, but not as it has been approved,” Lobo, told Undercurrent.

“We believe that this products should come into Brazil only through local processors”, -registered by the ministry of agriculture- “to be reprocessed and packed in Brazil, reducing risks of contamination and creating jobs in Brazil,” Lobo told Undercurrent, pointing out that Abipesca would prefer if imports were authorized with “inspection of the ministry of agriculture and to be packed in Brazil”.

Imports of peeled raw and precooked shrimp from Ecuador have been authorized earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Ecuadorian companies are getting ready to start shrimp exports to Brazil, while Argentine authorities have also started to lobby in favor of restarting shrimp exports to the country.

Ecuadorian shrimp producers might restart exporting to Brazil before the end of the year, after almost 20 years of suspension.

“At this moment we awaiting authorization of the labeling” on the Brazilian side, executive president of Ecuador’s National Aquaculture Chamber, Jose Antonio Camposano, told Undercurrent.

“Once the labeling is approved, we are ready to go,” Camposano told Undercurrent last month in Guayaquil.

However, behind the scenes, the Brazilian shrimp producers association ABCC is hoping to get political support to halt imports of foreign shrimp.

On another front, a recent crackdown on Brazil’s imports of Chinese pollock fillets containing sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP), a water retention agent, has also disrupted trade recently. This situation could boost Brazilian demand for other country’s products and for raw material processed in Brazil, supporting the development of the local processing industry

The recent halt in activities of the Brazilian tuna scientific subcommittee has put the country’s fishery activity at risk.