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Seafood exports in doldrums, likely to fall 10% in FY-16

Lower demand, changing movement patterns of catch, higher costs seen as key factors in lower exports

George Joseph & Nirmalya Behera  |  Mumbai/Bhubaneswar 

Indian fishing boats on their arrival at Porbandar on Tuesday, March 24 2015,  after they were released by Pakistan authority Picture by PTI
Indian fishing boats on their arrival at Porbandar on Tuesday, March 24 2015, after they were released by Pakistan authority Picture by PTI

Exports of marine products are likely to drop 5-10 per cent this financial year, according to experts. India’s export of seafood was up 6.86 per cent to 1.05 million tonnes worth $5.5 billion in 2014-15. Prices have also fallen in international market owing to low demand and reduced purchasing capacities in user countries due to falling currencies. Generally, new year demand supports exports in the second half of the financial year. However, the second half is also dull this season.

A of host factors have been affecting sea-catch badly. Export houses depend on aquaculture shrimp, mainly the vannamei shrimp. Anwar Hashim, a leading exporter and former president of Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI) said for the past six to eight weeks, catch from the seas had dropped 30-40 per cent across all coastal states. Delayed monsoon was the major reason and this shifted the movement of various varieties of common fish such as sardine and mackerel impacting their availability on Indian shore. Their prices have increased 50 per cent compared to the last season to Rs 150 a kg. This has made procuring such fish costlier.

Hashim added that October-December is the main buying season in Europe, but exports are in doldrums due to lower supply of raw material. “We have to import fairly large volumes from the south-east Asian countries to meet our commitments.”

Seafood exports in doldrums, likely to fall 10% in FY-16
James Kottackal, another expert, said during the past 10-year period, especially after the 2004 tsunami, both the Bay of Bengal and Arabian sea faced serious climatic changes. There is a phenomenal shift in the movement of fish and most of the fish usually found in shallow waters are now not seen along the coastal belt. He noted there is a major shift in the under-water current across the Indian seas, damaging the marine eco-system.

El-Nino also contributes to shifting of climatic condition in the sea belt. Hashim said sea catch is badly affected along the eastern part of the country where it has dropped almost 50 per cent and exporters now depend on aquaculture shrimp to meet their overseas commitment.

While procurement cost is rising in India, slowing down in consuming economies has dented demand. While demand in some western countries is still good, higher domestic costs make exporting to those countries unviable.

“Importing countries such as China, Russia, Brazil, Europe, and Japan are not keen to import shrimps from Indian with the currency devaluation in their respective countries. The US has imported more than 10 per cent of shrimps compared to last year from India. The devaluation of the yuan has caused considerable volatility in the currency markets across the globe,” said Ajay Dash, president, SEAI - Odisha region.

Buying for the festive season or new year, which accounts for 30 per cent of total exports, starts with the onset of August and phases out by October.

“There is nothing to cheer about the new-year sales. Consumption demand has declined in these economies. We are forced to sell at 20 per cent less price,” said Dash.

The US is the largest market for Indian seafood products with a share of 26.46 per cent in dollar terms in 2014-15, followed by South East Asia (25.71 per cent), and European Union (20.08 per cent). Frozen shrimp is the major export item in the export basket in terms of quantity and value, accounting for a share of 34.01 per cent in quantity and 67.19 per cent of total dollar earnings in 2014-15.

“Farmers are not opting for second crop because of low rates. The rates for 16/20 size (number of shrimps per kg) were hovering around $8.5 compared to $10 a month ago. Similarly, for 21/25 size, the prices have dropped to $7.5 from $9 in the past 30 days. Inquiries from importers are depressing,” said G Mohanty, managing director and CEO, Seagold Overseas and former president of SEAI-Odisha.

First Published: Wed, September 23 2015. 00:22 IST
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