The Indian shrimp export sector is likely to gain this year due to widespread damage to shrimp farms in Southeast Asia, due to a disease called Early Mortality Syndrome. Processing units in these countries will have to import to meet commitments with European and US importers.
This shift would be a big relief to the Indian sector, as it faces a serious problem in export to the European Union (EU).
Shrimp shipments from Thailand, the world's second largest exporter, could slump by half this year from the usual 350,000 tonnes because of the disease, said the Thai Shrimp Association. Supply could fall by half from the normal yearly production of 500,000 tonnes.
Thai shrimp exports to the EU in the first five months of this year were 12,548 tonnes, a drop by 38 per cent in volume and 34 per cent in value compared to the same period last year.
Anwar Hashim, a leading shrimp exporter and former president of the Seafood Exporters Association of India, told Business Standard this was a boon to our seafood export sector here. For the past two years, it has been hit by poor offtake and price reduction by EU importers.
Data from the Marine Products Export Development Authority show Southeast Asia was the largest importer of Indian seafood items in 2012-13. The region had imported 340,944 tonnes, valued at Rs 4,357 crore, which was 37 per cent of India's export and 23 per cent of the total earnings from the sector. The rise in export to this region was 24.9 per cent compared to 2011-12. Hashim forecast a sizable increase in exports to Southeast Asia this year, too. Apart from the disease referred to, demand is also rising in a number of countries in the region.
The disease has killed cultivated shrimps in several countries in Asia, where a million people depend on this type of aquaculture for their living, according to a report of the United Nations' Food & Agriculture Organization. Asia produced three million tonnes of shrimp with a value of $13.3 billion in 2011, it said.
The sector shows signs of recovery after hatcheries, farmers and governments worked to stop the disease spreading but it will take time to compensate the shortage in supply. Prominent Thai companies are considering importing of prawns and related products from Ecuador, India and Vietnam to meet local and foreign demand, according to the Thai Frozen Foods Association.