Agri Business

With Covid uncertainty hitting China, Indian seafood shippers turn to Thailand, Vietnam 

V.Sajeev Kumar | Updated on: May 19, 2022
The wharf at Kochi Port (file image)

The wharf at Kochi Port (file image) | Photo Credit: K_ K_ Mustafah

Lack of reefer containers delays shipments to China

Covid-related uncertainties in China appear to have prompted Indian seafood exporters to focus on Thailand and Vietnam, which were formerly major export destinations.

China is the second-largest market, after the US, for Indian seafood shipments, importing 2,61,491 tonnes valued at ₹8,551 crore in FY22. Thailand and Vietnam imported marine products worth ₹2,000 crore and ₹2,237 crore, respectively, during the period.

Consignments held up

The unpredictability in the Chinese market, especially in the cities of Shanghai, Ningbo, and Nanjing in the western part, following stringent Covid-induced lockdown has affected the supply chain. There is concern over shipments despatched earlier, which are held up in ports for more than 30 days, said Alex K Ninan, president of Seafood Exporters Association of India – Kerala Region.

Shipments have been delayed and reefer containers are unavailable as they are stranded in various Chinese ports. The likely cancellation of future orders will hit many firms that are already battling a slowdown in several markets, he said.

Marine product exports to China were earlier rejected due to the alleged presence of Covid nucleic materials in cartons and containers.

Meanwhile, Vietnam has started procuring Indian seafood on a limited scale, mainly for value addition. “We have no other option than to push the products for other markets where the prices are comparatively lower,” Ninan told BusinessLine. Thailand had banned Indian seafood after the detection of IMNV virus some years ago; its authorities have agreed to reconsider the decision and talks are on, he said.  

Eyeing Gulf markets

“We are also looking at Gulf markets as the Indo-UAE trade agreement will boost marine products exports,” Ninan said, adding that the slowing US market was another source of concern.

Shaji Baby John of Kings Infra Venture said that the focus on value addition by Indian companies has reduced the dependence on Chinese markets. Asked whether rising inflation would hit global demand for seafood, he said it was unlikely mainly because of the expanding markets and steady pricing of marine products over the past several years. Moreover, seafood has emerged as an essential food item in overseas destinations, he said.

Official sources said Indian seafood consignments find markets in China through Haiphong Port in Vietnam, on the Chinese border. The closing down of the port had enabled Indian seafood exporters to do business directly with China.

Meanwhile, international shipping lines have highlighted pandemic-related supply chain disruptions in Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Ningbo and Nanjing. Warehouses are running out of space and vessels have been delayed from five to 10 days.

Published on May 18, 2022
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