Chilled tuna is among the highest unit value earning forms of tuna exports, but large quantities still continue to be exported in frozen form, according to Mr Jairam Ramesh.

C.J. Punnathara

Recently in Port Blair Despite the strident growth in tuna exports during last year, India’s tuna catch and export potential remains largely untapped.

Tuna exports grew by 43 per cent in volume and 88 per cent in value during 2006-07. But the country has been able to exploit only a fraction of its vast oceanic and coastal tuna resources and exports continue to be hampered by low value- added forms.

Chilled tuna is among the highest unit value earning forms of tuna exports, but large quantities still continue to be exported in frozen form, Mr Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of State for Commerce, has said.

According to figures provided by the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), the average unit value realisation for chilled tuna was over three times the value realised from frozen variety: $4.67/kg for chilled tuna against $1.24/kg for the frozen variety. In quantity as well, frozen tuna exports was almost 100 times the volume of chilled tuna last year.

Measures undertaken

Now MPEDA has initiated several measures like upgradation of motorised fishing vessels to tuna long-liners, introduction of fish aggregating devices, training fishermen on tuna onboard handling facilities and other quality requirements to enhance tuna catch and exports from the country.

During the XI Plan Period, it is proposed to convert at least 800 fishing vessels to tuna long-liners and increase tuna exports to $500 million, Mr G. Mohan Kumar, Chairman of MPEDA, said.

To this end, it was proposed to convert 100 mechanised boats plying the Andaman & Nicobar seas – which has the highest concentration of tuna resources in the country – to long liners and also to introduce some vessels from the mainland to impart training and expertise to the fishermen population of the islands.

Japan top exporter

And there seems to be a definite shift to the East and South East Asian countries as far as tuna exports are concerned.

As an individual country, Japan recorded the highest volume and value of tuna exports from India. Japan, China and South East Asian countries also accounted for the largest share in the country’s tuna exports against either the European Union or the US.

Among the ports, Kochi had the highest share in the country’s tuna exports followed by Pipavav and Chennai. But the bulk of these exports continue to be in the frozen form.

With the introduction of the latest fishing techniques, chilling, processing and packaging technologies, Andaman & Nicobar islands is poised to become a major hub for tuna exports from the country.

The Junglighat jetty in Andamans is to be extended, provided with slipways, enhanced storage facilities and establishment of a chilled tuna packing centre, which is expected to bring the islands into the mainstream of the country’s tuna exports.

This would also reduce help to diversify the country’s marine export basket, Mr Jairam Ramesh said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 11, 2008)
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