Seafood industry to deliberate on issues

Kolkata, Feb 2 | Updated: Feb 3 2006, 05:30am hrs
Stuck at the $1.4 billion export level, the Indian seafood industry which has been bugged by a series of crisis like the US imposing anti-dumping duty on shrimp, the tsunami in 2004, the decline in coastal catch and the low availability of raw materials for the processing sector, the 15th India International Seafood Fair starting here on Friday should see the industry look at ways to overcome this.

Organised by the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPDEA), the Seafood Exporters Association of India (Seai), the fair would have a series of experts dwell upon the various aspects of the industry besides looking at ways to grow in the main markets of Japan, the US and EU, according to Seai national president AJ Tharakan.

The well-developed Indian seafood processing industry was working much below its capacity owing to shortage of raw materials. It had to be realised that there was good demand for seafood markets abroad. While Vietnam had now grown to $3 billion, Indian seafood industry was hovering around the $1.4 billion range. Japan was taking out products from here to Thailand and Vietnam for value-addition. In the case of shrimp, the EU had a demand for head-on material worth $2.5 billion. However, the shrimp prices were low because of more efficient production in Vietnam and Thailand.

Though the black tiger shrimp was Indias USP, the country needed to look at vannamei (white shrimp) production as was successfully done in Thailand and Vietnam.

The industry needed to have a conservation policy to revive the coastal resources. It had to look at control of net size and check overfishing. An alternative livelihood for fishermen would have to be provided and it was in this backdrop that the suggestion of adopting the cage culture method prevalent in Vietnam, which produced around $800 million of basa variety. Enhancing aquaculture production was another priority for the industry. The fair could be a major platform for India to look at various options to develop the industry with experts expected to speak about aquaculture, marketing, safety norms for fair production practices and the potential in production of other varieties like scampi and groupers.

An eight-member Norwegian delegation would attend the fair and look at business opportunities and forming joint ventures to utilise its vast raw materials for processing here, MPEDA chairman G Mohan Kumar said. There would also be a special delegation from Mauritius.