Agri Business

India’s seafood exports unlikely to achieve target as coronavirus hits many overseas markets

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on March 23, 2020

India’s seafood exports could likely miss the $7-billion target this year, as the spread of Covid-19 has adversely impacted demand in many overseas destinations. The country shipped $6.73 billion (₹46,589 crore) worth marine products in 2018-19.

“It is now an uncertain market with exports coming to a standstill, which led to a price drop not only for shrimps but also for other fish varieties,” said Alex K Ninan, President of Seafood Exporters Association of India – Kerala region. “Many of the export markets such as Japan and the US are buying selectively. The European market is totally cut off, while there is only negligible procurement from the Chinese market,” he told BusinessLine.

D Ramraj, President, All India Shrimp Hatcheries Association, pointed out that farmers are beginning to panic, with the virus scare forcing them to go for premature harvest. Concerned over the market conditions, many of them had even reduced their stocks, which are down around 60 per cent, especially in the East-West Godavari and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh.

They are also worried over the air traffic disruption in view of the possible delay in brood stock arrivals to India. “We are depending fully on imported brood stocks from the US and any disturbance in their shipments will affect us seriously,” he said, adding that the requirement of the seafood sector is two lakh brood-stocks per year in 400 shipments.

The farm gate price of shrimps has come down to ₹360 per kg for 40 counts as on March 15 from ₹385 in February end.

The stagnant seafood sector and sluggish exports have virtually hampered fishing activities across the Kerala coast, putting the traditional fishing sector in a serious crisis.

“We have never come across a situation as the sector is already faced with a host of issues such as declining catch, climate change, and migration of fish wealth,” said Joseph Xavier Kalappurackal, General Secretary of the All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association.

Following the declining prices of fish, he said, many of the boat owners are not venturing into deep sea fishing and traditional crafts are concentrating on offshore and coastal waters where fish availability is very low. The slow-moving export market has forced many shrimp peeling sheds in the Alappuzha-Aroor belt to down their shutters. The cancellation of marriages and other functions following the curbs on public gathering have also reduced the demand for fish in the domestic market.

Admitting that the export market was sluggish due to the virus scare, senior officials in the Marine Products Exports Development Authority (Mpeda) maintained that logistics restrictions and public movements have resulted in a lull. They are expecting a dip owing to the slowdown in the global market. But its quantum is yet to be assessed as many of the consignments are being re-routed. But the officials added that the trade is confident the pendency of orders will be compensated once the pandemic is arrested.

However, it is expected that there will be a revival in three months and exports will slowly gather momentum. There is increased sale of value-added ready-to-eat/ready-to-cook products, the officials said.

Published on March 23, 2020

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