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How Covid-19 has impacted the seafood sector

The Financial Express logo The Financial Express 26-06-2020 Rajesh Ravi
a table full of food: How Covid-19 has impacted the seafood sector © Provided by The Financial Express How Covid-19 has impacted the seafood sector a table full of food: As the catch from the sea is dependent on so many factors, we cannot predict anything as of now. © Provided by The Financial Express As the catch from the sea is dependent on so many factors, we cannot predict anything as of now.

India is the largest producer of farmed shrimps in the world and accounts for nearly 6% of the global fish production. During 2018-19, India exported seafood worth $6.72 billion with a volume of 13.92 lakh tonne. During 2019, India accounted for 282,584 tonne of shrimps from the total US import of 698,445 tonne. In an interview with Rajesh Ravi, KS Srinivas, chairman of the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), talks about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the seafood sector, and its outlook. Excerpts:

How far has the lockdown affected the seafood sector? Will it reflect in an overall decline in global seafood trade and returns?

The lockdown period in India had some impact on the seafood export sector on account of logistics issue. The Centre had instructed the state and other government bodies to provide all logistical support for the smooth functioning of seafood export sector and the situation has improved.

However, globally the sector was affected due to Covid-19 and the associated lockdown. This has resulted in cancellation of several orders, reduced and delayed payments,slowdown of cargo movements, and difficulty in getting new orders and renewal of existing orders.

US shrimp import from India for April shows a 25 % year-on-year rise. Do you think this growth can be sustained in the fiscal?

The current trend in shrimp production and exports is encouraging. Given the positive trend, except for minor setbacks on account of the pandemic, India will be able to sustain the exports.

There are some reports regarding farmers not stocking farms due to lower returns for shrimp and the pandemic. What is the outlook on production of shrimps for the season?

MPEDA is encouraging farmers to stock farms, expecting demand from international markets post the lockdown. During the initial period of lockdown, there was 30-40% reduced stocking but the situation is improving now.

China has in the recent past increased consumption of Indian seafood. What were the exports to China for last fiscal and the potential?

Based on provisional figures, exports to China have increased around 63% in value. Exports increased from $811.14 million to $1321.59 million in 2019-20. China imports seafood worth more than $15 billion under Chapter-03 itself. India is the third largest player in the Chinese market after Russia and Ecuador, so there is a great potential for further expanding the market share.

There are positive reports that export of black tiger prawn to Japan will increase significantly with the Indian quality improving? What will be the impact?

India has been a major supplier of black tiger shrimps to Japan. The recent decision of Japan's health authority to reduce the sampling frame of black tiger shrimp from 100% to 30% from April 2020 will help to boost the trade; with improved quality, there will be a surge in demand for Indian black tiger shrimp, which may in turn result in increased prices also.

MPEDA reported declining sea catch last season due to cyclones. What is the outlook for this season?

As the catch from the sea is dependent on so many factors, we cannot predict anything as of now.

What is the long-term target for Indian seafood exports and what are the steps taken to achieve it?

MPEDA's vision is to take Indian seafood exports to Rs 1 lakh crore by 2030. To achieve the target, MPEDA has envisaged increasing the aquaculture production by adopting species diversification, use of technology to improve the productivity and new marketing strategies with extensive digital campaigns and buyer-seller meets.

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