The key challenge for European aquaculture today is to achieve sustainable growth. To be able to grow, we have to be profitable so as to be able to invest. Profitability is only possible if we can be competitive with imports from third countries, now accounting for more than 65% of our seafood supply.
However, European legislation, production conditions, buying practices and consumer attitudes are strangling the growth potential of aquaculture. As imported products do not always offer the same levels of technical and social guarantees, we need to transpose our strict European rules on those countries from which we import. This is what we mean by the need for A 'Level Playing Field' for European Aquaculture.
The following aspects highlight the conditions of the ‘un - level’ playing field of today:
- Feed ingredients
- 3rd countries can use raw materials that are forbidden in the EU for use in feeds
- Food safety
- Different approaches to traceability are applied at the global level
- Use of medicines/antibiotics/disinfectants/additives differs between EU States as well as at the global level
- 3rd country possibility to defrost several times without mention on labelling
- Economic issues
- Payment of direct subsidies related to production/export levels
- Non-reciprocity on tariffs with respect to bilateral trade
- Some techniques (e.g. to improve freshness) are used without associate label information
- A lack of transparent information systems on traceability (e.g. HACCP)
- Information for the consumer
- Unreliable or insufficient labelling
- No mention of harvest dates
- Defrosted frozen products being presented as fresh at the retail point of sale
- Animal welfare
- Third countries are not subject to the same legislative welfare regulations that exist in Europe (e.g. live transport, on-farm husbandry practices, slaughter…)
- Environmental measures
- Europe has strict regulations when it comes to environmental impact assessments, water quality at the discharge of the farm and use of protected areas (cf. Natura2000)
- Working conditions
- Employment conditions, social welfare, salary levels, safety at work, training levels…are not comparable
- Imbalance in the market value chain of aquaculture products due to the dominance of large retailers/buyers
- Lack of sufficient transparency in the value chain
In conclusion, in order for European aquaculture to achieve innovative and economic growth, we have to be competitive and profitable, which will only be possible with a well-established level playing field for the profession.
It is essential that the policy makers take these issues into account in the current discussions on the reform of the CFP.