Seychelles and Ghana have signed an administrative agreement to boost their tuna exports towards the EU market. The agreement provides for the two nations to buy fish from each other for duty-free exports to Europe.
Seychelles’ Minister for Foreign Affairs explained that the two countries’ tuna catch peaks at different times of year; so when it is low season for the Seychelles’ tuna catch, it will be able to “top up” its raw material stock from Ghana to meet the EU demand, and vice versa for Ghana.
Ghana’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration highlighted that Ghana and the Seychelles have the same traceability system that “allows us to identify from which vessel a specific consignment originated” and the same sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards: “so really this agreement is beneficial to both sides as all the technical requirements are already in place,” she stated.
Seychelles’ only tuna canning factory, Indian Ocean Tuna Ltd, one of the largest tuna canneries in the world, already produces an average of 1.5 million cans of tuna per day. It is 40% owned by the Seychelles government and 60% by MW Brands, the largest EU tuna canning company (itself owned by Thai Union Frozen products). MW Brands also owns the biggest canneries in Ghana (Pioneer Food Cannery), which produces on average 800,000 cans and 20 tonnes of tuna loins a day.
MW Brands operates eight purse seiners in Ghana, which cover up to 60% of Ghana’s raw material requirements. These purse seiners are partly flagged in Ghana and partly in other countries, including Belize. Earlier in March, the EC blacklisted Belize for non-cooperation in the fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and issued a “yellow card” to Ghana. Concerns had already been expressed about the fate of the three MW Brands’ seiners flagged to Belize. At the time, Thai Union Frozen Products said MW Brands would seek to reflag these vessels to another country as a result of the EU sanctions. Meanwhile, in the Seychelles, tuna raw material is provided by a modern fleet of seiners under French, Spanish (fishing under a sustainable fisheries partnership agreement) and Seychellois flags.
Seychelles and Ghana also signed a double taxation avoidance agreement, which aims to further enhance trade between the two African countries. Under its terms, businesses will not have to pay taxes in both countries on their imported products.
ACP countries will have to meet various non-tariff requirements – such as SPS or traceability standards – before they can “top up” from each other’s fish raw material in order to optimise their access to the EU markets. This means technical cooperation must be established to ensure compatibility of the traceability systems of the countries involved. This will facilitate a smooth exchange of information, as seen in the Ghana–Seychelles case, where both countries have the same traceability system. Furthermore, IUU fishing must be dealt with by potential cooperating countries. If one of the partner’s fish supply comes from a blacklisted country (as happened for Belize-flagged vessels supplying a Ghanaian cannery), these fish cannot be used to top up another country’s fish raw material for export onto the EU market.