Agri Business

Virus effect: Seafood exporters worried over drop in demand, cargo disruption

V. Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on March 05, 2020 Published on March 05, 2020

The production of Vanammei shrimp variety crossed 8 lakh tonnes in 2019   -  The Hindu

Shrimp farmers in wait-and-watch mode; Mpeda says no impact on exports

The spread of coronavirus across countries seems to have put seafood exporters on the edge, as they fear that the emerging situation could hamper the movement of marine consignments to overseas destinations.

“There is definitely a concern with the virus threat spreading to more nations as it could dampen the purchasing power of people in the affected areas,” Shaji Baby John, Chairman, Kings Group, a leading seafood exporting company in Kochi, told BusinessLine.

The setting of summer in the US and Europe this month on is considered to be good in terms of demand for seafood in Western countries, compared with demand for meat, particularly on account of the Lent season.

“Right now, the issue is not serious. But we are keeping our fingers crossed. Since it is spreading across nations, there is definitely a reason for anxiety as it will hinder shipments,” Shaji said.

Lakkaraju Satyanarain, former president of the All India Shrimp Hatcheries Association, said that “because of the virus threat shrimp farmers are more cautious about holding on to their stocks. They are in a wait-and-watch mode. It is very unpredictable now, unless the threat dissipates. If the inventory movement is slow, the volumes will definitely come down.”

He pointed out that shrimp production in 2019 was good, as the Vanammei variety crossed 8 lakh tonnes, fetching farmers good earnings. This has reflected in the farmgate price of shrimp in the current year: The price was up at ₹385/kg for 40-count-weight at end February against ₹370/kg in the first week of the month. “Whether this rising trend in prices will continue is a big question,” he said.

However, stocking for small counts, which started in January, has already been completed. The harvest would be carried out in April-May after 100-120 days. But most farmers are not confident due to the virus scare, he added.

Just a slowdown: MPEDA

The Society of Aquaculture Professionals (SAP), at its biennial meet in Kochi, had predicted a 9 per cent increase in shrimp exports as China had emerged as the second largest buyer with 25 per cent share, after the US (42 per cent). Exports had picked up after July and India shipped large volumes in the last few months, thanks to the 7 per cent growth in production. The sector is looking to produce close to 9 lakh tonnes in the current fiscal.

On a positive note, officials of the Marine Product Export Development Authority (MPEDA) maintain that there has not been any major impact on seafood exports except for a slowdown in cargo movement, which may continue till Chinese ports resume operations.

Published on March 05, 2020

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