Claytons EU Access for Live Shellfish?
In October 2004, AQIS received advice from the European Commission regarding EU access for live bivalve molluscs. Australia has been banned from exporting live shellfish to the EU and this advice appeared to open the door. Or did it?. The advice stated:
"In relation to shipments of molluscs, AQIS may provide only the appropriate public health certificates required according to Directives 91/492/EEC and 91/493/EEC if one of the following conditions are met:
(a) the consignment consists of molluscs packed in packages of a size suitable for retail sale to restaurants or directly to the consumer; and the packages are clearly labelled with the following text: "Live molluscs for immediate human consumption. Not to be relayed in Community waters"
(b) the consignment is sent directly to an approved import centre where the molluscs are further processed or repacked and labelled as required in (a) above,
(c) the molluscs are shipped as non-viable molluscs."
For AQIS to issue an "appropriate public health certificate", the bivalve molluscs must be sourced from an area or areas officially listed by the European Commission. There are currently 12 Australian areas listed in SA and 2 in WA.
With regard to condition (a), EC guidelines for the interpretation of Decision 2003/804 suggest that consumer-ready packages should be in the range 1-3kg and packages for the restaurant or catering trade5-20kg.
With regard to condition (b), no list of "approved import centres" was supplied with the advice.
AQIS assumed that condition (c) merely reiterated Australia's previous access for frozen and processed bivalve molluscs.
Subsequent to the above advice, AQIS has now advised that two recent shipments of live shellfish (origin unknown), prepared in accordance with the conditions above, have been denied entry into their intended Member EU States. AQIS is attempting to find out why.
At this stage, it appears that the European Commission is not of the view that Australia has access under the conditions specified in Decisions 2003/804 and 2004/623.
Consequently, AQIS has alerted all Australian exporters not to ship live product to the EU market until further notice.
The OFA will keep members advised of this situation. This issue provides a wonderful example of the complexities of the export market, and the care needed in spending $ in setting up a market.