The Covid-19 lockdown has put the country’s marine fishery sector in deep sea, inflicting a daily loss of ₹224 crore, a report prepared by the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) said.
The monthly loss for the sector is estimated to be about ₹6,838 crore; the Kochi-based institute has put ₹6,008 crore loss to mechanised sector and ₹830 crore for non-mechanised sector. However, the loss incurred in fish processing, exports and other nodes of the value chain are not considered.
Lockdown: Fishing community in deep waters
The fisheries sector contributed about ₹1.75 lakh crore to Gross Value Added in 2017-18. Marine products are the most important agricultural commodity exported, accounting for close to $6.7 billion, growing more than 10 per cent per year, CN Ravishankar, Director, CIFT, said.
However, because of the lockdown, several fishing activities have been non-operational. Those fishermen, who were in the sea before imposing the lockdown, could not monetise their catch and had to abandon it. The distributional impacts of this could be felt more by coastal communities, women, children, and families who are wage earners, migrant labourers, and regular fish consumers, he said.
Besides, the fish processing and export activities are affected in the maritime States. The economic slowdown due to the pandemic in major export destinations including the US, EU, UK and China could dampen India’s export performance in the days to come. This could affect Indian aquaculture in the back-end, the report said.
The fishing and related activities in Gujarat — the No.1 State with 7.8 lakh tonnes marine seafood production in 2018 — have been hit severely. China is the major export market for Gujarat and the trade was affected by January when the Covid -19 virus infection affected China. It is estimated that there will be a 40 per cent reduction in the catch during this year.
Many of the importing countries, hit by the pandemic, have cancelled orders and this has resulted in an uncertain export market. Traders are anticipating a 20-40 per cent drop in price.
The report suggested setting up of a committee including all the stakeholders of the fishing industry to study the issues faced by the sector industry and come out with remedial measures. The government should also consider a comprehensive economic package considering the financial need of the fisheries sector. This could include a relief package for fishermen and processing factory owners comprising an economic component like loan waiver, deferring of loan instalments, subsidy to fishermen, etc.
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