The beleaguered seafood sector, which has remained stagnant due to the Covid 19 impact, hopes to find some revival of exports, albeit on a low note, to countries where there are minimal restrictions on documentation.

“We have sent shipments to Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, China, etc, where there were no serious restrictions for demanding original export documents. However, the quantity shipped, mainly shrimp, is very negligible, but the move has given a ray of hope in the current situation”, Alex K Ninan, President, Seafood Exporters Association of India, Kerala Region, said.

“We will be in a position to increase such shipments provided the government should be liberal in allowing the road movement of consignments from processing plants to the port. However, the 21-day lockdown is posing a hindrance, despite the exemptions given by the Government for the fisheries sector to carry out its operations” he told BusinessLine .

With sufficient stock in the cold storages of plants, Ninan said seafood processing companies could meet the export demand. The authorities, therefore, should allow movement of empty trailers to bring containers from the wharf to processing plants for shipments, he added.

Surging demand for frozen seafood

Industry sources pointed out that the demand for seafood in the US is on the rise, as there is increased grocery buying during the Covid-19 crisis. Frozen seafood is the biggest winner, attracting robust sales, as retailers are running out of stock following a surging demand. Product shortages have also led to the delay of several days, both in online and brick-and-mortar sales.

According to Ninan, the current shipments have been made possible after these countries accepted scanned copies of all original documents, such as the Bill of Lading, Certificate of Origin, health certificates, etc, issued by the regulatory agencies here. Japan, Italy and Spain also acknowledged the scanned documents for the already arrived consignments in their respective ports, or else the sector could have faced more trouble in clearing those containers.

The lockdown, he said, has adversely affected mailing all original shipping documents abroad due to the non-functioning of courier companies.

Appeal to extend lease period

Shrimp farmers in Kerala are not in a position to harvest their farmed stock because of the non-functioning of processing plants. Hence, the lease period of such farms should be extended till May 15, sources in the farming community urged. The decision of mechanised fishing boats not to venture into the sea and the impending trawling ban is likely to create a huge shortage of fish not only on the export front but in the domestic market in the coming days, they said.