Seafood exports are unlikely to meet the $7.8 billion target set for 2021-22, as the rising cases of Omicron have led to a business slump in Europe and the UK markets, besides host of other issues that put the exporters on tenterhooks. To add to its woes, the Chinese situation is still worse as it continues its suspension of consignments from Indian plants due to the alleged presence of Covid nucleic acid on seafood packaging materials.
This has led to reluctance on the part of exporters to ship to China, which is a good market for Indian marine products. “We are still having issues with the Chinese market. We now have apprehension on the EU markets as well owing to the Omicron breakout. The shortages of containers and untimely calling of vessels had led to delay in deliveries for the Christmas and New Year sales,” Alex K Ninan, President, Seafood Exporters Association of India-Kerala region, told BusinessLine.
According to industry sources, worldwide restrictions and lockdown due to Covid, multi-fold increase in freight charges, shortage of air cargo flights are some of the challenges faced by the sector, adding to the woes of shippers.
Marine Products Exports Development Authority (MPEDA) officials said 69 per cent of the export target ($5.3 billion) has been achieved as of November 2021 despite Covid and logistics challenges. The balance exports to the tune of $2.4 billion are to be met by March this year.
There is further scarcity in the availability of sufficient catch from the seas owing to climatic changes. Rising diesel prices have forced trawling boat operators not to venture into fishing. This has resulted in the scarcity of several export-oriented varieties such as shrimps, cuttlefish, squid, octopus and a variety of other fishes in fish landing centres. Generally, the West Coast, especially Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat where sea catch is more, has been badly affected.
The East Coast is mainly dependent on aquaculture, but farmers had shown reluctance to seed for the next crop last year in the wake of a subdued overseas demand due to the pandemic. However, there is a ray of hope amidst the pandemic times from the Gulf markets that reported a 20 per cent growth between April and December 2021.