Dependence on select markets hurts fish exports

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, Mar 2 | Updated: Mar 3 2008, 06:28am hrs
India is dangerously dependant on few destination markets for exports of marine products. This makes Indian exports susceptible to negative consequences of trade barriers imposed by importing countries, according to a study conducted by the Delhi-based Centre for Social Research

The FAO has categorised India as a medium-level fish producing country. Its fish production is about 4% of the world capture and 5% of the world volume and value in aquaculture.

While in over 16 years (1989-2005) the volume of exported marine products increased 4.6 times, the unit value increased only by 2.5 times, implying that Indian fishery exports still occupy a low value segment in the global fish trade, the study said In August 1997, the European Commission slapped a ban on Indian marine products, citing hygienic conditions and the ban was lifted after four months on exporters undertaking the responsibility for improving the quality.

However, the effect of the European ban was felt in 1998-99 with the loss of 21.48% in export quantity and 14.58% in dollar value. In 2002, Japan imposed strict standards on shrimps imported from India and made it mandatory for the consignments to be accompanied by a certificate stating the materials were of antibiotics. In 1996, the US imposed a ban on Indian shrimps for not using appropriate measures to reduce turtle mortality caused by trawlers, but this measure had little impact on overall Indian marine exports. The US imposed anti-dumping duties on Indian marine products in 2003.

Analysing Indian marine exports to major destinations, the study said that from 1996 to 2000, trade with West Asian countries was stable, while exports to South East Asian countries showed a volatile trend with a serious drop that occurred in 1998-99 and also later fluctuations. The export to EU showed a steady growth though disturbed in 1997-98 due to the ban.

The most major destination for Indian marine products are China with 1.4 million tonne, EU with 1.4 million tonne, South East Asia with 0.6 million tonne, Japan with 0.6 million tonne, US with 0.6 million tonne, and West Asia with 0.2 million tonne. While China receives the largest share of Indian marine products-27% by volume - it ranks lowest among India's export destination as far as unit value is concerned.

The opposite holds for Japan and US, while being at the bottom of the list of major Indian exports by volume, they top the ranks in terms of unit value.

The study noted that previously there was an over-dependence on the Japanese market for shrimp exports. In the recent past there was a gradual decline in intake by Japan and increasing absorption by the US and others. The US, which was a traditional buyer of small-sized shrimp from India, started buying other varieties including black tiger shrimp. The value per unit of Indian exports to Japan decreased by 30% over 9 years, while the unit value of exports to US doubled in 1996-2001. But the growth was not sustained and since 2002 the unit value of exports to the US was decreasing gradually.

Frozen fish is another major item of exports and its growth pattern has been very volatile with several major dips. In value terms it is in the least value category - just about Rs 47.55 a tonne. So also is the export of frozen squids, cuttlefish. Promises, however, hold better for exports of frozen shrimp and dried fish, which have higher unit value.