PANAJI: The state government on Tuesday issued the order banning import of fish from other states with immediate effect. However, traders who have complied with all the food safety rules have been exempted from the ban.
"The government imposes a ban on the import of fish into the state of Goa with immediate effect. However, this ban shall not apply to any person carrying on fish business as trader or transporter or in any manner dealing with fish, who has complied with the Food Safety and Standard Act and Rules and Regulations framed thereunder, including taking necessary licenses or registration as the case may be under the Food Safety and Standards Act, Rules and Regulations," under secretary, health, Maria Seomara De Souza stated in the order.
Last week, health minister Vishwajit Rane had said that the government will impose a ban on import of fish for six months, which could be extended by another six months till an independent laboratory was set up in the state to check for formaldehyde contamination in fish.
The order stated that it had been brought to the knowledge of the government that fish was being brought in from outside the state in small boxes via public transport vehicles, thereby violating the directorate of food and drugs (FDA) compliance conditions.
"The transport and police departments were directed to allow only those vehicles that were complying with the conditions," De Souza said in the order, adding that both departments will ensure "enforcement of instructions scrupulously".
Rane had said on Saturday that not a single fish trader had registered with the FDA in Goa.
The authority had, on October 24, revoked the registration certificates of 33 traders from the Margao wholesale fish market for failing to obtain trade licences from the municipality.
As per government statistics, nearly 182 trucks carrying fish enter the state daily, of which 100 supply to processing units and are mainly for export, and 82 supply to the domestic market.
On October 26, the state government stopped allowing fish traders who have not registered with FDA, from importing fish from outside the state.
The formalin-in-fish issue harks back to mid-July, when the state government banned the import of fish for 15 days after an FDA officer found formalin in fish imported from other states, sparking a furore across Goa.
Recently, politicians from across the border had threatened to damage Goa registered vehicles if the state government did not allow their fish trucks to enter Goa.
PANAJI: The state government will on Monday ban the import of fish for six months, a move that is likely to aggravate the scarcity of fish in the state's markets. The ban order, which will officially be issued on Monday, could further be extended by another six months. Health minister Vishwajit Rane said on Saturday that the ban would continue till fish traders comply with all requirements, and independent labs are in place to check the quality of fish.
The state government on October 26 stopped allowing fish traders who haven't registered with the food and drugs administraion (FDA) to import fish from outside the state. Apart from the move hitting the availability of fish in the markets, it also sparked a mini-political war, with politicians in neighbouring Maharashtra threatening to damage Goa-registered vehcles if the Goa government doesn't allow the people of Sindhudurg to sell fish in the tiny state.
Rane told reporters that he has already cleared the file to ban the import of fish. "Orders to be issued to the FDA and relevant agencies that the government bans the import of fish into the state for a period of six months which may be extended to another six months till all measures are in place, which include labs from quality council of India (QCI) and export inspection council (EIC). Till such measures are in place, with immediate effect, all imports of fish in the state of Goa are banned," he said in the note.
Meanwhile, Rane seemed unperturbed by the shortage of fish in the state. "It is not my issue," he said. "I'm not supposed to be (looking into it). I'm supposed to look at the health issue. I'm not concerned about any shortage of fish." He also stated that he would speak to the management of five-star hotels on the issue.
Rane said that the state government has taken various steps in the interest of Goans by interacting with the central government and the QCI and EIC in order to set up a lab in Goa with active participation of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
He also said that "various people" are trying to play around with the sentiments of the people in the state and accused those who have "monopolised the fish trade" of misleading the people.
"In view of this and the response received from fish importers, where they haven't taken any steps to comply with FDA directions, there is no question of the FDA giving them more time or any relaxation," Rane said. Additionally, Rane said that if buses transport fish from outside the state, the owner would be prosecuted.
"We will hold a meeting on Monday with the deputy inspector general (DIG) of police on how to act against illegal fish import," Rane said. "We will file cases through the FDA, police, and necessary FIRs so that nobody brings this type of fish (to Goa)," he added, stating that this was a "strong message" to Margao wholesaler Ibrahim Maulana.
"I will not allow anybody to play with the life of the people of the state," the minister said, adding that he and town and country planning minister Vijai Sardesai are very clear that the safety of the people of Goa will not be compromised. "We will not back out of this decision even if someone tells us (to do so), and it will be implemented from Monday."