Commerce Ministry plans proactive measures to build confidence in Thai seafood


The Commerce Ministry has joined hands with relevant agencies to build confidence in the safety of Thai seafood after Laos temporarily banned fresh, chilled and frozen seafood.

The aim of the ministry's exercise is to build confidence that Thai seafood is Covid-19-free.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce Jurin Laksanawisit revealed that the Laos Ministry of Industry and Trade was preparing to implement a temporary ban on import of fresh, chilled and frozen seafood products from Thailand after an outbreak in the central shrimp market in Samut Sakhon province.

Jurin on Wednesday instructed the Department of International Trade Promotion and the director of the Office of Foreign Trade Promotion in Vientiane to resolve the issue. He will discuss with the Department of Fisheries on preparing a hygiene certificate for export goods among measures to build confidence in the buyers.

Somdet Susomboon, director-general at the Department of International Trade Promotion, said the department had coordinated with the Commerce ambassador and Thai Embassy in Laos, including related agencies, to clarify the facts to the Laos Ministry of Industry and Trade, and assure them that both fresh and frozen Thai seafood are not contaminated. Importantly, from the technical data of the Department of Fisheries, it is confirmed that marine animals are cold-blooded and therefore there is absolutely no chance of them getting Covid-19.

"At this time, various agencies are trying to do whatever it takes to ensure fresh, chilled and frozen seafood, including processed food of Thailand, are free of Covid-19. Also, the Thai government has already enforced strict epidemic control measures and is getting results as well. Thailand had not found any infection in the country for the past several months," said Somdet.

However from discussions with the Department of Fisheries, there is advice that if buyers of seafood are not confident about contamination or infection during the transportation process, they can buy seafood directly at the farm without having to go to the market.

Poj Aramwattananon, president of Thai Frozen Foods Association, said importers of agricultural and fisheries products cannot declare a ban on the import of agricultural and fishery products since these products are under the World Trade Organisation agreement (WTO) signed by member countries. It is not possible to ban the import of this group of goods from other member countries without a good reason unless it is announced by the WTO that consuming the food will be harmful or even fatal. In which case, the situation will be similar to the bird flu outbreak where the WTO announced a ban on members importing chicken from countries with the outbreak and to have strict inspection measures before importing.

"In the case of Thai seafood, there were some inquiries from overseas buyers about hygiene measures. Thailand has already strictly undertaken measures for more than six months. The order for seafood from major buyers has not been cancelled yet," Poj assured.

Somsak Paneetatyasai, president of the Thai Shrimp Association, revealed that the main importers -- China, European Union, and Japan -- had already inspected products from Mahachai Market. China stated that the virus was not found from Thailand, but the virus was detected from Myanmar products, while the EU and Japan said no infection was found in Thai product packaging.

“Therefore, the case of Laos preparing to ban Thai fishery products is probably more a case of panic, which is hard to understand right now. It takes time to build confidence. As for other countries, there is no problem and we can still export shrimp as usual. However, we must ensure that the products released from the factory are free from the Covid-19 virus because the Myanmar workers are legal with clear residence area, not illegal labourers smuggled into the country and hidden in small shrimp retailers,” said Somsak.

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o- cha has called for steps to build confidence in fishery exports.

After a special session of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) on Thursday, which discussed zoning the virus risk area, the committee also discussed other economic matters including tourism, export and the possible seafood ban from Laos.

After the meeting, a reporter asked Jurin Laksanawisit, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce, on how he planned to deal with the issue of Thai product standards, especially fishery products after the latest Covid-19 outbreak. Jurin did not answer and left.

Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow said every seafood product could be exported normally according to standard and would not be seriously affected by the virus.

A source from the CCSA meeting revealed that the prime minister expressed concern about confidence in Thai food abroad, especially Thai seafood, after the ban by Laos. He told Jurin to establish standards for fishery products for export to build confidence in Thai food so that international consumers will know Thai food can be consumed as normal.