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Under Chinese pressure, Holland halts health certificates for Russian, Norwegian cod, haddock

  • October 27, 2020

Dutch authorities have stopped issuing health certificates for exports of seafood destined for China in cases where the product originates from a third country such as Norway and Russia, according to Undercurrent News sources.

The decision is set to disrupt the significant trade of frozen headed-and-gutted (HG) cod and haddock shipped to China from Russia and Norway via Rotterdam, Netherlands, Europe’s biggest port.

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A spokesperson of the Netherlands’ Enterprise Agency was unable to confirm to Undercurrent the rule change, which reportedly took effect on Friday, Oct. 23.

On Tuesday, Oct. 27, two industry sources based in Europe confirmed the change.

According to a note from a company seen by Undercurrent, the decision followed pressure from Chinese authorities who complained about imported seafood from third countries carrying Dutch health certificates.

China detected live coronavirus on the outer packaging of imported frozen seafood, thought to be cod, on Oct. 17. In recent weeks, it has also detected traces of the coronavirus on packaging of imported Russian pollock.

“From one day to the next the Chinese started to criticize this [practice]. According to them, Russian fish should be covered by a Russian export health certificate,” the note said.

At around noon on Oct. 23, Dutch authorities decided to stop issuing the health certificates for products not of Dutch origin.

“This is despite the fact the practice is legal and covered by a bilateral agreement between Holland and China,” the firm said.

In the meantime, the firm “advises not to ship out any container with frozen fish to China via Holland”. 

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An industry source with a large cod processor based in Europe told Undercurrent the change would have a big impact.

“This would be a problem for Chinese processors. Supplies there are already tight due to all the recent issues,” he said, referring to increased inspections at Chinese ports during the pandemic.

Smaller-sized Russian HG cod is mainly processed in Chinese factories, he noted, such as in seafood processing hubs Dalian and Qingdao. A greater share of large-sized HG cod is processed in Europe. 

“We have options in Europe,” the executive said. “But absolutely it’s very important for them [Chinese processors] that this is resolved.”

He said Dutch authorities are working in concert with Chinese counterparts to provide supplementary information with health certificates. This includes the name of the transport vessel and where cargo is coming from, information that is typically included with the catch certificate. 

“I think they will sort this issue out but it could take several weeks,” said the executive.

Most recent positive detections in China have involved Russian pollock, a fish largely harvested in Russia’s Far East and delivered directly to Chinese ports by “tramper” vessels.

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