India’s marine product exports decline being reversed, coming months look promising – MPEDA chairman

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Workers loading fresh fish catch at Mumbai's Sasson Docks. Photo/IAC

Exports of seafood, a fast-growing segment of India’s trade basket, have started showing signs of recovery after consistent declines witnessed since January this year, and demand trends for the coming months look promising, the chairman of the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) said.

K.S. Srinivas told indoasiancommodities.com that fish exports had nosedived by a staggering margin of over 40 percent immediately after the national lockdown due to COVID-19 came into play in March.

However, volumes had started picking up lately and demand trends for the coming months are positive.

K.S. Srinivas
Chairman, Marine Products Export Development Authority

“There was a small decline in the seafood exports early this year. Five percent in January and slightly less than three percent in February. But after lockdown in the second half of March, the decline sharply rose to 35 percent followed by the worst monthly decline number of 44 percent in April,” Srinivas said.

“However, in May, the decline has been registered at 27 percent which shows improvement and when we get the figure for June, this decline figure is expected to further improve,” the MPEDA chairman added.

Emphasising that the fishery business has been in the forefront of recovery from Covid-19 led lockdown with the government clubbing it with agriculture activities, Srinivas also pointed out a possible demand spur for Indian seafood exports to the United States in the coming months could quickly bring back the business on track.  

“There was a demand slump from the US and other major markets in the West due to restriction in operations of restaurant and hotels in the last two-three months. But now they are gradually opening up and that is the good news for Indian seafood exporters in the coming months. In many instances, the buyers of Indian seafood products in the west did not exactly cancel the order, but had rather asked for the postponement of the delivery for sometime,” he said.  

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The United States, with a 30 percent share and the European Union (EU) with a 12 percent share are the major markets for premier seafood products exported by India estimated to be in the range of around $7 billion annually.

Shrimps have a commanding share of 65 percent of the total Indian seafood export basket, and 40 percent of that goes to the United States alone.

Commenting on the non-tariff barriers imposed by the EU members on Indian seafood exports in the last two-three years on stringent standard parameters, Srinivas said the issue is going to be taken up in the next meeting of the joint working group on trade between India and the EU expected next month.

“They are testing 50 percent consignment going from India as against the general norm of 10 percent and a ban on 15 Indian exporting agencies have not been revoked. They are also not registering any new Indian company. We will take up these issues as there has been a significant improvement in our own testing protocols in recent times,” Srinivas said, adding that the cases of rejection of Indian seafood consignment in the EU had come down sharply this year.    

Ritwik Sinha is a Delhi-based business journalist and has covered key policy ministries and has been associated with various television platforms. He is also the founding editor of Logistics Times.

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