Seafood exporters are pinning their hopes on the forecast of an above-normal monsoon for a rebound in production and shipments of marine product exports in the current financial year. Also, the availability of quality brood stocks has raised the prospects of a good shrimp production in the year ahead.

The financial year 2023-24 had turned out to be a bad year for the marine product exports, which saw a decline of 8.74 per cent in dollar value terms at $7.37 billion over the previous year’s $8.07 billion.

“The IMD prediction of an above-normal monsoon is heartening,” said Pawan Kumar G, national president of Seafood Exporters Association of India. According to Kumar, better rainfall is expected to improve shrimp production - both cultured and sea caught.

Cultured shrimps output hit

Commerce Ministry’s quick estimates for the marine products exports during 2023-24 show a 5.95 per cent decline in rupee value terms at ₹61,043 crore compared to ₹64,902 crore in 2022-23. In dollar value terms, the decline was 8.74 per cent in 2023-24 at $7.37 billion against $8.07 billion in 2022-23.

The overall exports in value terms were down by 5-8 per cent in 2023-2024. Shortage of this kind in shipments, Kumar said, was on expected lines as a combination of factors had impacted the shrimp production, which affected the exports.

Production of cultured and sea caught shrimps took a hit, in particular the production of cultured shrimps received a major jolt since brood stock quality was not good. “This forced the farmers to backtrack, which eventually hit the second crop in many aquaculture farms,” Kumar noted. It was the devaluation of rupee against dollar that helped minimise the gap, giving some amount of relief to the seafood exporters, Kumar pointed out.

Besides the IMD prediction that offers a glimmer of hope, what enthuse the seafood exporters in the current year is the availability of quality brood stocks. “We expect our exports to do better due to availability of quality brood stocks, and better yield than last year. Then, we also foresee improvement in sea caught varieties with the start of the rains,” Pawan Kumar said.

No signs of uptrend

The dismal performance of seafood exports FY24 could also be attributed to the recessionary trends in Europe that led to a subdued demand, and Ecuador making inroads into the US markets with their shrimps at much cheaper price than that of India’s. Besides, the Russia-Ukraine war is also having a considerable effect on sales. He hopes that things will improve once the US elections are over this year.

Major markets for Indian seafood exports are the US, China, European Union, Japan, South-East Asia and the Middle East among others. Major sea food products exported from India include frozen shrimps, Vannamei shrimps, Black tiger shrimps and frozen fish and squids among others.

Meanwhile a veteran exporter told businessline that he did not see any uptrend in the off-take market because of a subdued demand, and it is likely to remain at the same level. “The economies of the consuming countries have to improve for the demand to pick up”, he said.

According to him, the sales were stagnant in the US market post-Covid due to oversupply while Europe is facing recessionary trends leading to a decline in demand. “Moreover, the rising freight rates is also posing a hindrance”, he added.