While most Indian exporters are projecting a modest to massive decline in volumes in their categories following bleak demand trends due to Covid-19, seafood exporters are confident of not losing business in these troubled times.
Speaking with indoasiancommodities.com, Elias Sait, Secretary General of Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI), said that demand trends from most of the key markets were still positive and domestic production too had quickly recovered following the gradual easing of the countrywide lockdown imposed in late March to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
“This is an extremely difficult spell for most of the commodities in the international markets. But we are hopeful that being a food product, we will manage to stay close to around $7 billion exports figure in 2019-20. We haven’t noticed any serious weakening signs in demand trends for this year from our major markets,” Sait said.
The United States (30 percent), the European Union (12 percent), Japan (8 percent), China and South East Asian countries (25 percent) are the major markets for Indian seafood exporters.
Of total Indian seafood export basket, shrimp has a commanding share of 65 percent and 40 percent of India’s total shrimp export is routed to the US.
“US is our biggest market and we see no problem there or in China and South East Asia in the near run. With EU, we still have some trade barrier issues, which we have asked the government to resolve quickly. If that happens, we can even expect a positive growth of 5-10 percent in 2020-21,” he said, adding that maintaining previous year’s exports numbers would also be a function of no further Covid-19 shock disrupting the global market.
In the last couple of years, Indian seafood export has seen serious non-tariff barriers imposed by EU importing countries. The fishery exporters have been complaining of getting a raw deal from EU members, being subjected to as much as 50 percent seafood consignment testing vis-à-vis 10 percent norm for other exporting countries.
Sait also emphasized that production and processing of seafood consignments this year will not be an issue since the sector has made quick recovery with timely intervention from the government.
“After the lockdown was imposed, only 10-20 percent processing units were working with reduced labour force. But Andhra Pradesh, which accounts for 50-55 percent of aquaculture production, took some proactive steps to help the sector. The union government too included it in essential products category which helped in quick recovery,” Sait said.
Commenting on Rs 20,000 crore special corpus recently announced by the finance minister to push fishing business to the next level Sait called it a progressive step to realize the Blue Revolution plans of the government.
“The government wants fishery export to double in the next five years and a long-terms support line like this corpus would be extremely useful. But it also needs to pay attention to some of our pending demands like granting full-fledged agri status to our business which is the case in other countries,” he added..