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INTERVIEW

“We have reached new markets - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Yugoslavia”
Monday, 27 February, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
The Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) established by Government of India, is an organisation dedicated to augment and promote the exports of seafood from India. The organisation is responsible for registration of infrastructural facilities for seafood export trade, market promotion, capture and culture fisheries, processing infrastructure and value addition, quality control and research and development. Currently MPEDA is focussed to use more wastelands and also aims forward for species diversification. Better utilisation of coastal lagoons, bays and islands, reservoirs, marsh lands, all could lead to better production and export revenue besides food security. Dr A Jayathilak, chairman, Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), talks about the rich seafood reservoir available in India, its growing demand and export to 108 countries, acquiring new markets, price stability, regulations norms in an email interaction with Harcha Bhaskar. Excerpts:

Tell us about the expected exports of seafood this fiscal. How much is the growth this year compared to previous year?
Export Scenario 2016

The export scenario in 2016 is very encouraging. We have seen an increase of almost 14.5% in the export value up to November 2016 compared to last year same period. In US dollar terms, the increase is nearly 11%. However, the volume growth is on a lower note indicating a higher unit value realisation. The unit value rose close to 10% compared to last year. Export of high valued shrimp and the value-added products contributed to the increase in unit value.

The export details are given below:
 

Export of seafood from India during April-Nov 2016 compared to the same period of last year

Export Details

2016-17 (Prov)

2015-16

Growth%

Quantity in Tonne

671468

663489

1.20

Value in Rs Crore

24,349.4

21,263.6

14.51

US$ in Million

3676.56

3316.22

10.87

Unit Value (US$/Kg)

5.48

4.99

9.82


Import During 2016
Imports are mainly for domestic consumption, value addition and reexports. As per the available secondary data, around 32,700 tonne of fish, shrimp, and cephalopods besides other items of sea origin such as shells, corals, agar, and pearls were imported.

Aquaculture Production 2016
In 2016, the aquaculture shrimp production has increased by around 10% compared to 2015. Almost 90% of the cultured shrimp production is of the vannamei variety. The estimated production of vannamei shrimp up to November 2016 is 4.00 lakh tonne. Other species farmed are Tiger Shrimp, Scampi, Mangrove Crab, Tilapia, Seabass and so on. With the prices remaining firm, we anticipate the production of vannamei to cross 500,000 MT during 2017.

Which are the prime products that are in demand by other countries?
Frozen shrimp is always the major item of export in terms of quantity and value, accounting for a share of 69.21%. Other frozen items such as fish, cuttlefish, squid also enjoy high demand. The demand for fishery items in live and chilled condition have also been growing these years.

How versatile is India in seafood? How can we leverage it?
Though farmed shrimp is the principal item of India’s marine products export in quantity as well as value, it harvests shrimp, fishes and cephalopods from its natural waters too. India is utilising just 10-12% of the potential brackish water area suitable for coastal aquaculture. Besides, we also have coastal lagoons, bays and creeks that are suitable for farming other finfish and shellfish varieties. We are also propagating species diversification in aquaculture to fishes like Cobia, Pompano, Barramundi, Molluscs (clams, oysters and mussels), Mangrove Crabs, Seaweeds etc. India can also make it big to produce fishes like Tilapia in its freshwater systems where plenty of water spread area is available in the form of lakes, reservoirs and ponds.

The country has created necessary critical infrastructure such as Aquatic Quarantine Facility, Brood Stock Multiplication Centre, State-of-the-Art Hatcheries, Feed Mills etc., and also implementing required management measures such as mandatory quarantining for brood stock imported into the country, adoption of BMPs in shrimp culture and so on. 

What are the factors that affect the export of seafood?
The revival of the aquaculture production (especially, shrimp) in Thailand and Vietnam has resulted in a better supply situation in the international market. This has eased the price situation of shrimp in the world over including India. Thus our average unit value realisation of frozen shrimp has come down to US$8.28 per kg in 2015-16 as against US$10.38 in 2014-15. The depreciation of euro, weaker economic condition in China, devaluation yen, and lesser sea catch  contributed to the decline in exports in 2015-16. However, we could see a strong rebound this year, despite contamination of anti-dumping duty on farmed shrimp imports in USA, our principals market, tariff and sanitary parameter issues in Japan, increased sampling of farmed shrimps in EU and so on.

This fiscal has India broadened its exports to any new countries?
Indian seafood reaches customers in 108 countries. Our exporters have reached out to new markets such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Yugoslavia this fiscal.

In the international market where does India’s seafood production ranks?
The data by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of 2014 reveals that India is ranked second in the world in total fish production, second in aquaculture production and fourth in marine capture fish production. In international seafood trade, India is ranked seventh.

How much is annual production of seafood, how much percentage of it is exported?
India is exporting only 12% of its fish production, and the export sector mainly sources its requirement from marine and coastal aquaculture supplies. The rest goes for domestic supply.

How much is the annual domestic consumption of seafood in India?
The domestic fish consumption including that for industrial use is around 6.5 million tonne.

What is the share of value-added products in seafood exports?
The export of value-added products is showing a positive growth these years with specific infrastructure development schemes for value addition. Our share of value addition has reached close to 17% of the total export earnings. MPEDA continues its propagation for more and more value addition through its various schemes. 

What are the value additions that happen in seafood?
Indian exporters produce wide variety of value-added products from shrimps, fish, squid, cuttlefish etc. It ranges from ready-to-eat products, ready-to-cook products, imitation products, pan-ready products, curry/ meals pack, pasteurised products, retort pouched/ canned products, and other fishery pharmaceutical / cosmetic products. Some exporters utilise imported raw material for value addition and reexport based on buyer’s requirements as tray packs, pouch packs, vacuum packs etc. There is also a growing demand for organic, certified and sashimi grade items, which fetches higher price.

Where do we lack in it?
Presently, value addition happens as sporadic or limited ventures. This is mostly because of the requirement of high capital investment, lack of skilled labourers for value-added product development, and apprehensions on market situations. There are also issues with lower fish catches from our seas. Some resources are critical for value addition. Diversity in aquaculture output could also bring about better avenues in value addition.

What are the testing norms a company has to follow for exports?
The export units have to follow the regulatory checks, microbiological, and chemical parameters such as heavy metals, anti-microbial agents etc. at various levels before export of a consignment. 

How rigid/lenient is the regulation compared to other countries?
Our regulation as far as seafood quality is concerned is at par with major international regulations so as to provide safest seafood to the customer. All the units are compliant to HACCP-based seafood safety system.

What are your expectations from the government?
There are certain issues raised by the farmers and exporters alike to promote the sector to further heights. MPEDA has already raised those issues before the appropriate authorities and forums. We expect favourable solutions on them soon.

What are production and export strategies for coastal states in India?
The strategy is rooted on MPEDA’s motto of ‘Export with sustainability.’ While it makes efforts to augment production, conservation efforts will also go alongside to preserve the environment and to protect resource availability. In the aquaculture front, MPEDA proposes to use more wastelands and also aims forward for species diversification. Better utilisation of coastal lagoons, bays and islands, reservoirs, marsh lands, all could lead to better production and export revenue besides food security. It also provides for empowerment of rural fishers and more man hours of work for existing labourers ensuring social security. 

Which state in India has major contribution in seafood production?
Andhra Pradesh is the topmost contributor to Indian seafood production and exports, propelled by its coastal shrimp aquaculture and fish production in inland areas as well. It also contributes sizeably to the marine fish landings. In marine fish production, Gujarat is the number one state. They are also emerging as a major player in coastal shrimp aquaculture.

How technologically well equipped is our industry? How does technology help in boosting seafood industry?
Technology can do wonders both in production and processing side. Better automation of the activities with auto feeders, harvesters etc. are helpful in better management of the farms and to reduce post-harvest losses. Mechanisation and automation in processing units will be helpful in value addition, which earns a better margin on the export produce. In marine fisheries, we are yet to effectively exploit oceanic resources like tuna, bill fishes, oceanic squid and myctophids to their harvestable potential due to lack of adequate technical resources. Our production and processing systems will be able to make quantum jumps with appropriate investments in the respective sectors.
 
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