Saudi Arabia has imposed a temporary ban on imports of Indian shrimps and lobsters after detecting the white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) in frozen shrimp consignments.   

As per the directive of the Saudi Food & Drug Authority, the ban will continue until India sufficiently guarantees on the safety of the products exported and on the assurance that WSSV will not be transmitted to the fisheries of Saudi Arabia.  

With this, Saudi has enforced a complete ban on the imports of shrimp and lobsters from India. In January 2017, It had put a temporary ban on imports of fresh, chilled and frozen shrimps from India due to the presence of WSSV in L. vannamei and it is still continuing, highly-placed sources said.

Not a top buyer

Downplaying the incident, Jagdish Fofandi, national president of the Seafood Exporters Association of India, said Saudi Arabia is only one among the mid-size markets for Indian seafood and not a top buyer for the time being. The ban would not have any major impact on marine products exports, as only very few players are doing business. However, Saudi Arabia could be a potential market if the authorities there initiate measures to open up, as that country is doing very little compared to other Gulf nations due to procedural issues, he said.

Marine Products Exports Development Authority (MPEDA) figures reveal that Saudi bought 7,228 tonnes of marine products from India during 2021-22 in which frozen shrimp constitute only 4,642 tonnes for a value of ₹2.42 crore out of a total marine products shipment of ₹2.81 crore.

WSSV has emerged globally as one of the most prevalent, widespread and lethal pathogens for shrimp populations causing high levels of mortality in farmed shrimp. Though WSSV is present in the waters of almost all tropical countries including India, the country could successfully curb its outbreak in aqua farming systems.

This is evident from the fact that shrimp culture which was just 1.36 lakh tonnes during 2010-11 has witnessed a 10-fold increase in the last decade, with the total shrimp production crossing 10 lakh tonnes in 2021-22. This could be achieved through the adoption of various bio-security measures by the country, the sources said.