Agri Business

Covid-19 takes a toll on Kerala seafood industry

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on October 22, 2020

Fishing boats anchored at the Vizhinjam fisheries harbour, due to bad weather along Kerala coast, in Thiruvananthapuram, October 14, 2020   -  PTI

Seafood processing centres shut down, domestic and export business lost, high value inventories stuck

Kerala’s ₹6,000 crore vibrant seafood industry is severely threatened by rising raw material shortage, declining overseas demand, increasing containment zones in the wake of Covid-19 and processing centres being closed.

Also read: Lockdown in Kerala’s coastal regions hits seafood shipments to overseas markets

Closure of fishing harbours due to lockdown has brought sea catches to a standstill, depriving factories of much needed raw material, particularly, high value items such as shrimp, squid, cuttlefish, octopus and clams. Also, an unusually large number of days when boats could not set out due to adverse weather conditions contributed to the shortfall.

“Marine product exports from Kerala is almost down by 20 per cent now and the value-wise loss cannot not be quantified because of higher expenses and lower arrivals”, Alex K Ninan, president, Seafood Exporters Association of India – Kerala Region told BusinessLine.

Also read: India’s shrimp output set to drop by 20% this year on reduced stocking

With processing centres in containment zones shut down, the business moved to Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, he said.

Lockdown during March-April period led to cancellation of orders for the summer and Easter sales. This resulted in a pile up of inventories, he said.

Many importing ports had closed down and cargo on high seas had to be called back or had to be sold at huge discounts in distress sales, payments were stuck and stocks held up or put up for distress sale.

Many overseas importers have gone bankrupt or have gone out of business and the sector really needs to be careful with whom they are doing business. The whole industry has suffered heavily in the confusion to distinguish genuine buyers from fly-by-night operators, Ninan said.

Need support

The Association urged the government to allow fishing and open up harbours with restrictions, supply diesel, the main cost for the fishermen, at a subsidised cost, waive bank interest at least for the lockdown period and provide temporary working capital at subsidised rates.

Other demands include permission to pay accumulated KSEB charges in instalments over one year instead of remitting it as a lump sum. The association also called for immediate release of held-up export incentives and withdrawal of hike in ocean freight and reduction in port charges.

Published on October 22, 2020

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