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MPEDA to focus on US, Japan markets

C.J. Punnathara
Vipin V. Nair

The authority plans market access initiatives to boost exports and regain the lost market share.

Kochi , July 26

WITH seafood exports from the country remaining stagnant from 2000 onwards, the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) is planning a series of activities to boost exports to the US, Europe and Japan.

Mr G. Mohan Kumar, Chairman of MPEDA, told Business Line that under the aegis of MPEDA and the Seafood Exporters Association of India "we plan to implement a market access initiative in the US. The focus will be on value-added products, access to shop shelves and warehousing facilities, to facilitate greater volumes. Later, the programme will be extended to Europe and Japan.''

The final export figures for last year are still not out but Mr Mohan Kumar said the provisional figures were not very encouraging. During the period April-February 2003-04, marine exports slipped to $1,218 million as against $1,303 million recorded for the corresponding period a year ago. The value of marine exports to total agricultural exports from the country has also slipped from 21 per cent to 18 per cent.

To counter these trends, MPEDA and SEAI have together constituted a new task force to spur marketing efforts and to ensure the quality of products. During the year 2003-04, exports to the US had contributed 26.5 per cent of the total marine exports. This was followed by European Union, which accounted for 24.8 per cent, and Japan with 19 per cent.

There was little possibility of Indian marine export reaching the $1,431 million levels of 2002-03, Mr Mohan Kumar said. This was mainly due to a variety of reasons, both internal and external.

The predominant position enjoyed by Japan in India's marine exports had been consistently slipping during the recent years. The fall in the value of the yen, economic slowdown and quality problems of Indian shrimp exports had all contributed to this slump.

Given that both India and the US are in the midst of an anti-dumping controversy, the possibility of heightened exports to the US also remains bleak. As for Europe, several quality questions had been raised on Indian seafood exports, which have not been fully settled.

Cultured shrimp exports from Andhra Pradesh have turned sluggish ever since the farmers moved away from saline to sweet water aquaculture production, Mr Mohan Kumar said.

Freshwater farms are plagued with algal blooms, which generate a foul odour, which is internalised by the shrimp grown in those ponds. Muddy smell is another phenomenon, which has been associated with sweet water prawn culture. These factors have been dissuading Japanese importers from sourcing shrimps from the region.

Under these circumstances, the possibility of an immediate pick up in marine exports is not envisaged. It is to counter these sort of an adverse circumstances that MPEDA and SEAI have evolved a new set of initiatives. ``We have to tap the latent potential of the Western coast in order to generate fresh volumes,'' Mr Mohan Kumar said. Gujarat and Maharashtra offer great promises for both capture and culture fisheries. Once the market access initiative is in position along with quality upgradation and tapping new areas for production, MPEDA sees tremendous possibilities for a sustained growth in marine exports in the coming years.

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