Exporters welcome Thai FTA on fish imports

Kochi, Jan 25 | Updated: Jan 26 2005, 05:30am hrs
Seafood exporters have welcomed the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with Thailand which should see tax-free import of fish into the country mainly for reprocessing and export, making the industry work to its full capacity. However, a large section of fishermen in the state are against such an agreement.

According to Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI) national president AJ Tharakan, the imported raw material was only for reprocessing, value-addition and export. In Kerala alone there were 91 processing units, of which 52 were EU-approved and the rest approved under the national standard fixed for fish processing units.

At present, processing plants were operating at less than 20% of installed capacity due to non-availability of raw materials and were not in a position to provide work to skilled workers for more than 100 days. Peak season for fish landing was hardly four months. During rest of the period, even the fishing boats were kept idle.

Such an agreement would provide a good chance for processing units and provide employment to 1.5 lakh workers directly employed by the industry throughout the year

The recent Exim policy had declared four panchayats in Alappuzha as town of export excellence for the seafood export industry.

This would attract more entrepreneurs to invest in the place and ultimately lead to more employment opportunities for the people in and around the coastal belt of the state, he added. u

Import of raw material would in no way affect the domestic fishing industry as it is not viable for domestic distribution. Mr Tharakan also said that fears that landings or catch would be affected were unfounded. Thailand was one of Indias major buyers and the import of raw material was only meant for reprocessing and export.

Thailands seafood canning industry was one the most advanced and developed ones in the world. Sardine, mackerel and tuna would get a better price once this agreement was implemented, he felt. Five years ago exports from Thailand were far below Indias and now had shot up to $5 billion while that of Indias were a mere $1.3 billion.

Opposition to the FTA would only defeat the Centres agenda for uplift of the traditional industry, Mr Tharakan added.