Needing an ecosystem to boost marine exports

If the country has to take advantage of its 8,000-km coastline and 20 lakh sq km of exclusive economic zone, financial institutions should help the fisheries sector in buying vessels and promoting aquaculture, said Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.

“The idea is to create an ecosystem that will encourage farming of shrimps, technology adoption, and promotion of exports,” he said inaugurating the 19th edition of the India International Seafood Show. He also launched a book chronicling the contribution of Marine Products Export Development authority over the last four decades on the occasion.

Accent on aquaculture
Sharma said cluster farming initiatives by the MPEDA in the four Southern States have led to “an exponential growth in production and exports.”

He said furthering the growth shown by these coastal States means loans to establish cold storage facilities for value-addition.

Value-added exports in India’s seafood exports basket are only 17 per cent and they could increase in the wake of higher financing to the seafood processing industry.

Exports in 2014-15 will touch the $5-billion mark, he said, adding that the target of $10 billion by 2020 is also achievable.

The chief contributor to exports has been the network of testing laboratories set up by MPEDA to clear residue-free shrimps, a sought-after species in the West.

These quarantines have helped bring in special brood stock, not only the Vannamei shrimp, but also the native Black Tiger variety.

The multiplication centre set up in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, for Black Tiger shrimp is another step aimed at grabbing a higher share in the exports market, he said.

Avertano Furtado, Goa’s Fisheries Minister, said more investments are now being directed towards seafood processing facilities, and aquaculture. He said that Goa, with only 14 seafood processing units, achieved a five per cent increase in value-added seafood exports during 2012-13. They are bound to go up with more investments.

Tamil Nadu exported Rs 3,332 crore worth seafood last fiscal, with 247 exporters and 42 processing units.

It has spent Rs 245 crore in the last two years to support fishermen into deep-sea fishing, especially the tuna, said State Fisheries Minister K.A. Jaypal.

US: biggest importer of India’s seafood
The US has overtaken South-East Asia as the largest market for Indian seafood exports.

According to data provided by the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) and Seafood Exporters Association of India, the threat of a countervailing duty last year on Indian shrimp imports had little impact on exports.

Shipments to the US in April-November 2013 in rupee terms jumped 91 per cent to Rs 5,392.3 crore, while the comparative number for South-East Asia was Rs 4,887.7 crore.

Increasing demand in the US and the European Union is aiding the trend. The US initiated countervailing duty investigations into frozen shrimp imports from India in August to ascertain whether the subsidised shipments were hurting domestic producers.

A month later, it decided in India and other Asian nations’ favour saying that the measure was not necessary.

“There has been a shortage of seafood in the world exports market, and the US, quick to return to its level of consumption, has increased imports of India’s value-added products,” said Leena Nair, Chairman of MPEDA.

The US market, an important destination for value-added seafood exports, imported more of India’s shrimp pickles and shrimp curries during the period. She told reporters on Thursday that this will spawn more aquaculture and processing not only in shrimp but in other varieties such as the Asian Sea Bass, the Cobia, and the Pangasius. “These varieties have a market in the US,” Nair said.

She said that the Seafreight Assistance Scheme launched in September 2009 has increased the country’s share of value-added products in the export basket.

“We are looking at tapping a huge volume shipped to South-East Asia for value-addition. Going forward, value-added products as a percentage of total exports will increase to 30 per cent,” she said.

Seafood exports from India during April-November 2013 were Rs 19,017 crore, higher than Rs 18, 856 crore for the entire 2012-13 fiscal. The target for fiscal year 2013-14 has been fixed at $4.3 billion (Rs 26,700 crore).

However, exports are facing hurdles in Japan. It said in July 2012 that shrimp imports should not contain antioxidant preservative ethoxoquin above 0.01 parts per million.

Recently, it announced the permissible limit is 0.2 PPM, but the revision is expected to come into effect only by February 2014. Similarly, Canada’s stringent norms with regard to quality of Indian seafood is a concern, said Nair.

However, the export of frozen fish has declined during the period by 40,944 tonnes, mainly due to a gradual decline in the quantity of fish caught from the seas.

A.J. Tharakan, President, Seafood Exporters Association of India, said aquaculture is growing in States such as Orissa, Maharashtra, and Gujarat, apart from Andhra Pradesh, which has traditionally been strong in fishing.

Nair said the 19th edition Indian International Seafood Show, organised by MPEDA and SEAI, will showcase a wide variety of Indian seafood at its 355 stalls, spread over an area of 71,040 sq. ft.

She said such promotional events will help Indian exporters get a toe hold in Western markets. The exhibition, to be held in Chennai Trade Centre between Friday and Sunday, will have 40 per cent of its space occupied by foreign exhibitors, said Nair.

SEA wants amendment to MPEDA
The Seafood Exporters Association of India has sought an amendment to the Marine Product Exports Authority of India Act, 1972, for larger representation of the seafood industry on the board of the authority and widening its role in setting norms for aquaculture in inland and coastal waters. A.J. Tharakan, President, SEAI, who made a pitch for such an amendment to Commerce Minister Anand Sharma at the India International Seafood Show here on Friday, said: “We want the role of MPEDA clearly defined so that we know who calls the shots where. And, a wider role for MPEDA will help better regulate the aquaculture industry.”

The board of MPEDA, comprising 30 members, has only six seafood industry representatives.

Officials from State Governments, three elected members from the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, and other fisheries-related institutions constitute the majority on the board.

Crop Holiday
Leena Nair, Chairman, MPEDA, said: “The Minister has said it will be looked into. The contours of what has to be strengthened have not emerged. We have to wait.”

In late November last year, the MPEDA suggested hatcheries in the country suspend operations to prevent the spread of Early Mortality Disease, that causes premature death of shrimp and hits exports.

However, another Union Government body Coastal Aquaculture Authority, set up in 2005, put out a notification on November 27 that saying that it has not given any permission to officers of MPEDA to enter into any hatchery or farm related to the purpose of disease surveillance. It also said any violations could be informed to it.

With such a tussle leading to Government departments working at crossroads, the industry faces a lot of uncertainty, according to seafood industry sources. Addressing the India International Seafood Show here, Tharakan said: “Unfortunately, the fishing industry in the country is spread over five ministries: exports under Commerce; deep sea fishing, aquaculture and fishing research under Agriculture; seafood processing under Food Processing; Coast Guard under the Defence; and coastal fishing and inland water bodies under the jurisdiction of coastal States.”

Asked if such an amendment will see the light of the day, Sharma said: “We will do what is required.”

Ornamental Fisheries: emerging segment
The potential of the ornamental fishery resources in the country has to be exploited to improve India’s share in the global market, according to Union Minister for Food and Consumer Affairs, KV Thomas.

“We have to take more steps to exploit the resources in the sector,” he said speaking at an international seminar – Ornamentals Kerala 2014 – organised as part of India International Aqua Show.

Madhusoodana Kurup, Vice-Chancellor of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, said that India contributes only 0.3 per cent of world exports and the sector can generate huge employment. He said that India’s ornamental fishery export contribution was $1.24 million.

The Western Ghats and the North-Eastern Region are the biodiversity hotspots of the ornamental fish industry in India.

Over 300 species being exported from India, he said 99 per cent is caught in the wild. As many as 287 native fish species and 92 exotic fish species are being exported.

Lack of the production of new fish varieties, low cost feed, fish health management practices, proper training are major issues faced by the industry. Sevin Fossa, President, European Pet Organisation and aquarium consultant, Norway, said that India has to focus on marketing the products as well as sustainable exploitation of the rich resources on account of the large presence of indigenous fish varieties with high export values.

Strict implementation of eco-labelling and green certification is the need of the hour to strengthen India’s export industry of ornamental fishes.

Eco-labelling is necessary because consumers are more quality conscious and demanding for social and environmental responsibilities, said A Ramachandran, Director, School of Industrial Fisheries, Cochin University of Science and Technology.

The green certification will help sustain the ornamental fish resources in addition to boosting the product image, he said at the international seminar – Ornamentals Kerala 2014.

The seminar also recommended targeting a growth rate of five per cent by the Indian ornamental fish trade in global exports by 2020. To achieve the target, the seminar emphasised the need for setting up necessary infrastructure for mass production of the indigenous species.