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Friday, Apr 26, 2002

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Seafood exporters to focus on US

Amit Mitra


THE seafood export industry, which has gone through a disquieting period last fiscal, is hoping that the overseas market will firm up in the current fiscal.

Currently observing a 45-day ban in fishing activities off the East Coast as part of the measures to conserve fishery resources in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the industry will be focussing on the US market, when the deep-sea fishing vessels commence operations in June.

A leading shrimp exporter here told Business Line that the market dipped especially in the aftermath of the September terrorist strikes against the US. ``There has been no brisk buying in both the Japanese and US markets. We had to literally push our products into the market,'' he pointed out.

What has actually affected the seafood exporters is the poor price realisation. Industry sources say the price of shrimps (16/20 count) averaged $11 per kg last fiscal, a sharp drop from a high of about $17 per kg. In fact, the fiscal had started off on a firm note with an average price realisation of $13.40 per kg, but it stared to drop steadily to $10 per kg.

``After December last year, the market showed some signs of improvement, with the price crawling up to $11 per kg. But this was mainly on account of some brisk purchases by Vietnam for reprocessing and export,'' an exporter pointed out.

Apart from the September terrorist strike, exporters ascribe the downtrend to a marked decline in the buying capacity of Japanese market, which is the biggest market for Indian seafood exports. Further, the market turned product-size specific, with differential rates prevailing. Another significant trend has been the growth in the US market, which has partly offset the poor price realisation in the Japanese market.

According to figures brought out by MPEDA for the April-November period last fiscal, there has been a drop of 6.15 per cent in terms of volume and 10.97 per cent in terms of value compared to previous year. Further, the unit value realisation in dollar terms fell by 9.21 per cent.

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