“Despite the challenges, we exported $ 700 million in seafood through October”: KS SRINIVAS, President, Marine Products Export Development Authority | Interview |
India is the largest producer of farmed shrimp and accounts for almost 6% of global fish production. In an interview with Rajesh Ravi of FE, KS Srinivas, chairman of the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), says seafood exports have rebounded and appear solid. He discusses the impact of Covid-19 on the seafood sector and its prospects. Extracts:
How are Indian seafood exports doing? Is it the result of the constraints induced by the pandemic?
We are out of the Covid-19 situation and are doing better than 2019-20. The international market has opened up. The past year has been bad for seafood exports. In the first half of 2019-2020, exports amounted to $ 3.4 billion and they fell to $ 2.7 billion in 2020- 21. For the first half of 2021-2022, it now stands at $ 3.7 billion. There is 37% growth in value and 23% in volume year over year. The target for the year is $ 7.8 billion and we have reached almost 60%.
Without the huge increase in freight costs, our exports would have increased by 40-45% for the first half of the year. Despite all the constraints of the pandemic, we also achieved an increase in the unit price of exported seafood to $ 6.17 per kilogram, from $ 5.63 previously reported.
There are reports that exports to China have to go through strict controls and there are other kinds of barriers?
The Chinese market is of great concern as they are taking extra precautions due to Covid. There is multi-level verification and customs clearance is delayed. China is researching Covid-19 nucleic acid even in outer packaging materials and has now suspended 51 Indian units indefinitely. Interestingly, despite all the problems, we exported $ 700 million worth of seafood through October (April-October 2021) and reached 68% of the annual target of $ 1 billion.
Has aquaculture production declined? There are reports that aquaculturists have reduced seeding on farms due to the lockdown?
The production, which includes the black tiger (monodon), is around 8.5 lakh tonnes and it is increasing. Lately there is more demand for the monodon. There are also concerns that breeding vannamei will become expensive and that we should focus on our black tiger. The acreage increase is happening, but not at the rate we would like it to be. The area devoted to aquaculture is about 1.6 lakh hectares. We have to increase the area because the future is aquaculture.
Are you concerned about fish landings on the Indian coast?
The increase in cyclone activity on the Indian coast is cause for concern. In the first half of the year, total fish landings in India amounted to 2,18,600 tonnes, compared to 1,85,000 tonnes in the same period last year. But again, there are variations and concerns in the landing pattern. With the exception of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, all other states report declining fish landings. Kerala and Karnataka report a considerable drop in landings.
Transport costs have increased and the availability of containers will be lower?
It is a worldwide phenomenon. There is a serious shortage of containers and the freight costs have increased dramatically. For example, if an exporter were to export from India to the United States at the same time last year, they would have to pay between $ 4,000 and $ 8,000 per container. Now he has to pay around $ 14,000 to $ 22,000 for a container. Profits are under pressure for exporters.
As part of MPEDA’s Golden Jubilee year, what initiatives have been taken to support farmers and exporters?
We are expanding the quarantine facility in Chennai to meet the growing demand for vannamei broodstock. Second, we will modernize the fishing ports.
The MPEDA has taken the initiative to upgrade and modernize the infrastructure because we believe that hygiene is important and this will bring us better returns. Ports need air-conditioned auction houses, potable water and their own ice factories. Third, we will increase the black tiger brood stock. MPEDA started the domestication of tiger shrimp in Andaman in 2014 and we will soon be starting a brood breeding center.