FREETOWN — Sierra Leone has signed an agreement with Dutch firm Precon to facilitate access to EU markets for its fish and fisheries products, the marine resources minister said Saturday.
The Dutch firm specialises in hygiene, food safety and consumer health protection, Soccoh Kabia stressed on national radio.
“Sierra Leone has over the years tried to obtain an EU export market certification for its fish and fisheries products but to no avail as the country lacked the capacity to meet EU standards and regulations pertaining to the preservation of fish and fisheries products along the food chain,” Kabia said.
“Securing an EU certification will not only showcase Sierra Leone‘s fish products to the EU but will expose them to other lucrative markets,” he added.
“It is painful that we cannot export directly to the EU market, yet our resources are illegally fished here, repacked in other neighbouring countries and then sold to the EU.”
Fisheries experts said the EU banned fish imported from Sierra Leone in the mid-1980s because of poor hygienic standards.
The fishing industry is a multi-million dollar foreign exchange earner for the west African country and it contributes 10 percent to its GDP.
According to ministry of marine resources figures, between 20 and 30 million dollars are lost through illegal and unregulated fishing.
A total of 936 million leones (150,000 euros/$215,000) was budgeted for fisheries development for the current year and the ministry has so far generated a revenue of seven billion leones in the past eight months, the minister said.
Sierra Leone recently received a 28 million dollar grant from the World Bank for the development of its pelagic stocks and the promotion of good fishing practices, Kabia added.