Argentine fishing production represents “2.1% of total exports and having such little representation in the domestic market”, is “below the production of some regional economies, whose production is certainly primary.”

1 de October de 2023 09:26

If shrimp fishing in Argentina falls or demand decreases, this entire industry would be at risk.

The share of fishing in the total export complex has been falling in percentage terms. In 2022 it was 2.1% while in previous years it was 2.6% (2021), 3.2% (2020) and 2.9% (2019), making clear the terrible policies carried out by the Undersecretary of Fisheries. By the way, we do not add the toxic environment in which the activity takes place : inflation; tax and bureaucratic pressure; the exchange rate delay; lack of credit; obstacles to the import of essential inputs and withholdings on exports; the high costs of basic inputs; the inefficiency of ports, the lack of control of illegal fishing, etc. that attacks the competitiveness of Argentine fishing. By the way, what lower-ranking official could influence national policy? The field of Agriculture and the hierarchy of The activity must be changed. And we ask ourselves, who will pay attention to this activity with a 2.1% share in exports and with consumption in the domestic market of 4.8 kg annually, the lowest in Latin America?

If there is anything good about the so-called Federal Fisheries Law 24,922, it is its article 1. From this onwards, the clerks began to copy and paste the demands of their clients, so that almost everything was possible; but, as usually happens in a world of changing interests, these mutated and what was good became bad and vice versa. The Chamber of Deep Sea Ship Owners was created because some understood that the Chamber of Freezers defended contrary interests and vice versa. , there was nothing to suggest that everything would be the same, giving rise to countless business acronyms, where in light of the results, there is more of a desire to put the official on duty to become a creditor of very personal interests, than to reconcile a policy that contains the entire activity and allows everyone to grow, develop and multiply, like a biological rule.

Why atomize representation if when it comes to defending their interests the main companies play their part outside the cameras. A box of prawns has a wonderful effect on the official who must make decisions. It is not necessary to give more explanations.

The State, as the owner of the resource, when granting the concessions, should ensure that the exploitation, carried out appropriately, is profitable, both for large businessmen and small businesses, to whom it should provide a “Fishing Economic Unit” that allows them to develop in this activity. This must occur in any of the macroeconomic scenarios, since the measures taken must be adjusted permanently, so that this equation is maintained. The Undersecretary of Fisheries is not responsible for this.        

By 1976, the deep-sea fleet consisted of 113 fresh vessels and 10 freezer vessels; that is, a ratio of 92% to 8% respectively. This percentage was reversed with the notable growth of freezer vessels. In 2022, the declared landings of fresh vessels were 394 thousand tons and of freezer vessels 400 thousand tons. ; that is, 50%. The numbers are eloquent, and this finds its basis in the dichotomy that, even as exports increased, unemployment and unregistered work increased.Two reasons: less added value and increase in precarious work. And what do the Mayors and councilors of the municipalities think about this? Nothing. They are busy collecting money through traffic fines, to resolve the red in their communes, and they are not enough to realize the resources and employment that would be generated by the processing of fishery products on land and other decisions in the field of fishing exploitation.

Of course, we do not ignore that the macroeconomic issue and the current labor regime is contrary to industrialization on land. A regime that encourages unregistered work, for which it is enough to see the number of SOIP members in 1990 and the few members in 2022; fishing exports, in which the official dollar plays a role and the subsequent pesification and other distortions such as the outsourcing of trade; the differences between national companies and those in Argentina that act as subsidiaries of their parent companies abroad; the use of cooperatives that do not comply with the current legal regime and that quote manufacturing activity at marginal prices in relation to companies that face all taxes, labor charges, employers and fees; the tolerance of the municipalities to clandestine processes and many other evils, which discourage job creation and labor formality and which led to the fresh fleet that processed its raw materials in industrial plants, being transformed into freezers. , despite the fact that law 24,922 prohibits it, where the basic processing is carried out on board, giving away labor to developed countries and, to some in South America, at the expense of the impoverishment of our cities and towns, for the benefit of importers and transformers.

The initial argument of the buyers was the trigger: “ the products frozen on board are of better quality ”. This favored, in many cases, for them to stay with the transformation processes, which, among other things, requires defrosting. , processing and subsequent refreezing, ignores the new technologies for maintaining refrigerated catches on board. The work regime and the tolerance and inability of the competent agencies did the rest.

But, a small detail, the State, which is “the owner of the resource” and gives its exploitation in concession to businessmen, did absolutely nothing to try to harmonize interests, so that fishing continues to generate populations and industries and occupation. of the inhospitable territories of the Patagonian coast, as well as the city that gave rise to industrial activity in Argentina and that today appears decadent.         

With freezer vessels it is difficult to comply with the axiom indicated in article 1 of the Fisheries Law: " promote the exercise of maritime fishing in pursuit of maximum development compatible with the rational use of living marine resources" , because carrying out a minimum process and freezing on board, with a low employment of labor, is not seeking maximum development and rational use, which is achieved by obtaining the maximum added value from the same unit of raw material.

Does this mean that freezers have to be eliminated? No. Fresh vessels must be modernized and modernized and ensure that added value is present in any case and that freezer vessels expand their radius of action to capture resources. migrants originating from the EEZ on the high seas and compensate them by increasing their capture quotas (a procedure that I am omitting for the moment); free them from all tax burdens, capture and export rights, and provide them with greater protection and research in the area.   

The fishing resource and the scope of development of the species is the domain of the State, which grants it to companies to, among other things, add the maximum possible value to a sustainable catch and this is virtually impossible with the current model. , where freezer vessels are generally inefficient when processing on board, as arises from the conversion coefficient ( Bergamaschi, Nazareno, INIDEP, 2000 ) of mechanically processed products, which determines how many tons of catch are needed to get a ton of final product; Since, if we take that coefficient we could see - as an example - that, to produce 1,000 tons of skinless hake filet, it is necessary to capture about 3,600 tons of hake (Coefficient 3.59); That is, about 2,600 tons of the rest of the filleted hake are discarded into the sea; while, for the same product, in the manual process prepared on land, the yield is 45%, that is, with 3,600 tons of whole hake, 1,620 tons of fillet are achieved, consequently obtaining about 620 tons more filleted hake than in packaging on board, in addition, to take advantage of the waste for the manufacture of flour with 65% protein. In this regard, the application of the FAO Code of Responsible Conduct should be kept in mind: « the owners and shipowners "of fishing vessels should ensure that their fishing vessels are equipped with adequate equipment in order to process the waste generated on board during the normal operation of the vessel", although this could put freezers out of competition .

By the way, since there are no safe controls during capture, yields are uncertain. Added to this is the lack of control in eventual transshipments at sea or in landings where the species could be replaced. Chocolate for the news , my friend Jaime would say.

Who can technically maintain that the quality of processed and frozen products on board is better? Or, what quality and health safety can we talk about in frozen products on board, when there are no professional inspectors here to verify the suitability of the materials? raw materials, the hygiene of contact surfaces or the health of operators, as required by Decree 4238/68 section 1.1.2; 8.1; 23; or article 31 of Law 24,922. One would have to ask: what health professional certifies the processes that occur on board?

On the other hand, the products treated on board in the freezer vessels are thawed at destination for processing, and are then marketed fresh or frozen again for display in gondolas. It is also true that when comparing the quality of raw materials landed fresh, there is no have taken into account the new available storage and maintenance technologies ( RSW, Refrigerated Sea Water) in transport. The European Union and the majority of buyers are interested in reducing the processes of their sellers and this is clearly demonstrated when They reduce import tariffs on raw materials without added value to zero or, when products from the Malvinas enter Spain, with the sole condition that 70% of them are processed on the Iberian Peninsula.

Meanwhile, Argentina, with a large number of unemployed nationals; 40% poor and Patagonia with a population index of 2 inhabitants/km2, transfers work to the European Union by exporting with low added value. There is no “equity” referred to in the Sea Convention (UNCLOS); in addition to giving authorization in the Argentine continental territory to Spanish and Chinese fishing companies, while vessels from these States appropriate our resources originating from the EEZ on the high seas and the Malvinas; a true contradiction to what is prescribed in the aforementioned article 1: " the effective protection of national interests related to fishing will be promoted and the sustainability of fishing activity will be promoted, promoting the long-term conservation of resources." These interests, not They are only rationally exploiting the resource, but exploiting it in such a way that promotes the location and support of towns on the maritime coast, as an effect of the establishment of industries and the consequent regional employment. By the way, the " national interests "related to fishing " are also promoting the naval industry and other related industries, an issue that is not taken into account when INIDEP and the entire chain of government responsibilities promote the importation of a research vessel, at a cost that exceeds one hundred million dollars. And the Undersecretary of Fisheries? Before downloading his tables, seeing if the statistics close; bureaucratizing the productive task and, judging by what happened in Río Negro, without coordinating the protection and administration of fishing resources as prescribed by article 5 inc.b of Law 24,922 to which all provinces adhered.

The same article 1 specifies: " favoring the development of environmentally appropriate industrial processes that promote the obtaining of maximum added value and the greatest employment of Argentine labor." Ratifying what has already been said, this paragraph refers to industrialization on land, since These are the appropriate areas, not only to ensure the best possible working and environmental conditions, but to ensure control and obtaining the greatest added value to raw raw materials and the generation of employment. This, in an agricultural producer, for example. , which exploits its assets and businesses, can be left to its exclusive discretion, but, being a concessioned activity, the State is obliged to manage the resource in the most efficient way, which is not enough to extract it from the sea, much less limit itself to exporting it. commodities, but the products should be suitable to be destined directly to the wholesale markets of the world and the shelves, so that, starting from the same raw material, the greatest possible value is obtained and, internally, facilitate consumption and improve the diet of consumers, develop the industry and generate new jobs in the country.

While this is happening, in the Argentine territory of the Malvinas, foreign vessels take 250,000 tons of fish and squid annually and, as many, appropriate some 700,000 tons of migratory resources originating from the EEZ on the high seas; This is without counting the discards which, transpolating the national information, would be around 30%. In this scenario, the Undersecretary of Fisheries cannot implement any serious traceability plan.       

Towards the 1970s, fishing was considered a productive activity and could not access the tax benefits of the industry. To reverse this, the Chambers committed to adding value to raw materials. This commitment would be reflected in article 2. of the fishing law: " fishing and the processing of living marine resources constitute an industrial activity" , this expressly refers to "processing" and cannot be limited, as we have said, to a mere extractive activity, of low added value and export of commodities; It is the obligation of the Undersecretary of Fisheries to " establish the requirements and conditions that vessels and fishing companies must meet to develop fishing activity" (Law 24,922, Art.7 f).The legislator wanted to benefit the industry on land in the Fisheries Law, as opposed to extractive activity and, therefore, determined the catch quotas by type of fleet; the obligation to unload at the port; established the best conditions for granting permits to those who employ national labor in a higher percentage on land and ships proportionally (Art.26), thereby privileging fresh vessels that employ a greater number of operators in the industrialization processes; promoted the assignment of quotas to the amount of national labor employed (Art.27º) and prohibited the transfer of catch quotas from fresh fishing vessels to freezers (Art.27º), revealing the interest in prioritizing those by about the latter.

The current model concentrates the benefits on a few and harms the entire activity. Fishing in its beginnings was unpredictable because it lacked the appropriate technology for capture and processes and was unaware of the markets. Today, greater certainty has been achieved in operational issues, what is uncertain and unpredictable is the national strategy and economic policy. In the midst of this, such a structure, goods and human resources placed at the service of fishing production cannot represent 2.1% of total exports and have such little representation in the domestic market, below the production of some regional economies, whose production is certainly primary. It is alarming that this small percentage depends 60% on a species that has not been able to be quoted. adds low value and, of a resource that, although renewable, can be exhausted when the ecosystem is not comprehensively controlled (EEZ-High Seas-Malvinas).  

Many fishermen light a candle to: “ Give us, Lord, our daily shrimp ,” because if in Argentina this unpredictable resource falls or demand decreases, this entire industry would be at risk. The first half of 2023 shows a drop in U$S/Kg ratio. Let's hope we don't have to resort to a prayer chain.

We understand that Argentina can increase exports from 1,800 to 6,000 million dollars in four years; increase private employment of labor from 20,000 registered direct jobs to 60,000; increase domestic consumption of fishery products from 4.8 kg to 10 kg per capita/year and improve eating habits. Reduce foreign fishing of Argentine migratory resources on the high seas.Deepen research, technology in extraction and the quality industrial process, with the administration and contribution of the business sector and labor forces.



By Agenda Malvinas


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