Seafood industry likely to get benefits on par with farm sector

Written by Sajan C Kumar | Chennai | Updated: Feb 23 2010, 04:16am hrs
The Union agriculture ministry may finally consider the long-pending demand of the fisheries sector to accord it incentives and benefits enjoyed by the agriculture sector. With the seafood exports industry, the foreign exchange earner of the fisheries sector,pitching strongly for the full-scale agri tag at the ongoing India International Seafood Fair 2010 in Chennai,both the commerce and agriculture ministers have in-principle agreed to the demand.

While commerce minister Anand Sharma had asked the agriculture ministry to kick-start the initiative towards this, minister of state for agriculture, KV Thomas, was quick to take the cue saying that seafood exporters could get export benefits once the fisheries sector gets the status equivalent to that of agriculture.

Earlier, pointing out the problems faced by the industry, Anwar Hashim, president, Seafood Exporters Association of India (Seai), said that the industry has been going through a difficult phase as there were threats from the US and the EU markets on quality standards and measures like anti-dumping duties and unfavourable non-tariff barriers. Though over production in countries like Thailand and China had given stiff competition to us, we could sustain our exports to countries like the US, China and Japan, he said.

Leena Nair, chairperson, Marine Product Export Development Authority (Mpeda), said as a logical extension of its initiatives to project the capabilities of the seafood processing sector and to optimise the installed capacity utilisation, Mpeda has been implementing various schemes aimed at increasing the production from culture and capture fisheries, value addition and marketing thrust.

The Centre has identified value addition and production of super quality ready-to-eat marine products in consumer packs to achieve the target of $ 6 billion worth of seafood exports by 2017.

Mpeda provides technical and financial assistance for setting up processing plants for value-added products. It also extends help to set up handling centres for chilled (including tuna) and dried marine products and assists exporters by way of reimbursement of sea freight incurred for export of value-added products.

According to Mpeda, the demand for value-added seafood products, especially those in consumer packs, will increase in future due to combination of factors such as higher disposable income, sophistication of tastes and declining cooking skills. These factors have resulted in creation of more opportunities for the processing industry.

Exports of marine products from India during the first nine months of 2009-10 were at 4, 70,231 tonne valued at Rs 7,259 crore ($1527 million). Compared to the same period in the previous year, exports clocked a meagre 0.61% growth in quantity, 8.37% in rupee earnings and 0.81% in dollar earnings.

Industry watchers, however, feel that the feat achieved in exports was a creditable one for the Indian seafood industry considering the global economic meltdown and reduced demand for consumer products.

Right polices and interventions by Mpeda and the pro-active role played by the industry have helped log positive growth in exports, they said.