Orissa seafood exporters seek better infrastructure

Written by Sandip Das | Bhubaneswar | Updated: Sep 1 2009, 05:28am hrs
Seafood exporters in Orissa have urged the state government to provide infrastructural facilities needed for the growth of the industry. The seafood exports sector has been reporting impressive growth during the last few years thanks to initiatives from the private sector.

The sector, which employs more than 1 lakh people in the state, reported a record exports figure of Rs 411 crore during the last fiscal despite severe infrastructural bottlenecks, such as lack of container facilities as the Paradip Port and shortage of cold storage facilities for highly perishable items.

The Orissa government's fisheries policy document finalised in 2004 had set an exports target of Rs 1,000 crore by 2010. With virtually no support from the government, seafood exports from the state may not achieve the target envisaged under the state fisheries polices, G Mohanty, president, the Seafood Exporters Association of India, Orissa chapter, told FE. He wants shrimp farmers to be brought under the crop insurance cover as they suffer huge losses due to natural calamities, which hit Orissa at regular intervals.

We have been asking for exemption of the value-added tax on frozen fish products and abolition of the marketing tax on fish and fishery products for exporters, Mohanty said. There was not any incentive for inland fisheries in the state, he added.

Exporters say that due to lack of cold storage, processing and transport facilities, many farmers have decided to shift from the fisheries sector. This may result in decline in exports over the next few years.

Admitting the problems faced by the seafood exporters in the state, Damodar Rout, state minister of agriculture, cooperation, and fisheries, said due to absence of container services in the Paradip Port, exporters have been using the facilities at the Vizag or Haldia port. We need to build massive infrastructure to boost exports in fisheries, Rout said.

Rout said the Orissa government is working on a plan to boost exports of fish products as the state has a huge coastline of 485 km. Orissa, because of its rivers and coastline, is among the top ten in terms of production of fish. The state has around 20 processing plants for seafood. Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat are the top exporters of seafood.

According to estimates of the Marine Products Export Development Authority (Mpeda), the export of marine products has grown over the years--from a mere Rs 3.92 crore in 1961-62 to Rs 8607.94 crore in 2008-09. Marine products account for approximately 1.1% of the total exports from India.

The European Union was the largest market for Indian seafood accounting for 25% in quantity and 32% in value in 2008-09. According to a source, the European market's share, which had dropped from 35% to 32%, could fall further unless the government initiates corrective measures immediately for stopping illegal exports that usually do not conform to safety standards. During 2008-09, besides the EU, the key export destination were China (14.8%), Japan (14.6%), the USA (11.9%), south-east Asia (10%), the Middle East (5.5%) and others (10.6%).