Fishermen load a freshly caught arapaima, also known as pirarucu, onto their boat in the western Amazon region

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - Brazil said Tuesday it was suspending fish exports to the European Union in response to concerns raised by Brussels’ veterinary inspectors.

“The suspension will come into effect next Wednesday, January 3, at the same time as an action plan to respond to questions raised by the European Union following an inspection carried out in September 2017,” the ministry of agriculture said in a statement.

The move was aimed at preventing the EU itself from ordering a suspension, said Luis Rangel, the secretary of state in charge of fisheries.

Rangel cited disagreements in food safety standards between Brazil and the EU.

“The EU veterinary inspection mission in September determined that the changes they had called for in previous visits had not been implemented,” the Brazilian union of agricultural inspectors said, citing its own concerns about “the fragility of the Brazilian inspection system.”

“The European Commission said the Brazilian fish production system had serious faults and deficiencies, especially in relation to the quality of our fishing vessels,” it said.

The Brazilian trade association PEIXE BR, which represents half of the fish producers in the country, called on the government to take “urgent measures” to prevent damage to the market.