Seafood exports from India have taken a hit due to a demand slump in key markets – the US and China – and could decline by as much as 25% in the current fiscal from $6.68 billion in FY20 due to the pandemic-related issues, Jagdish Fofandi, national president of Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI), said.
While official data of exports of marine products so far in the current fiscal are not immediately available, the decline during the period is seen to have been sharper than anticipated for the full year. According to the latest data by the US agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Indian shrimp exports to the US is seen lower by 27% at 42,650 tonne during April-June of 2020 against 58,708 tonne a year ago.
“We are anticipating a drop of 15-25% in exports in the current fiscal due to Covid and the aftereffects of stress harvesting, low breeding and labour problems. The worry is the (sluggish) China market, which virtually no buyers there now. If (the low demand for) silver pomfret is an indicator of things to come, we anticipate a 30% decline in exports to China itself,” Fofandi added. A fifth of India’s seafood exports are to China.
Regarding the key market of the US, Fofandi says that while it is seen subdued currently, there are some positive signs. Supermarket sales, which give better margins, have picked up in comparison to institutional sales, he said.
During 2019-20, frozen shrimp, which earned $4,889.12 million, retained its position as the most significant item in the basket of seafood exports, accounting for a share of 51% in quantity and 73% in dollar earnings. The US, the largest market with an over 38% share, imported 2,85,904 tonne of frozen shrimp, followed by China with 1,45,710 tonne in the last year.
“Exports of vannamei is likely to drop around 15% this year. Shrimp production likely to drop due to Covid. Farmers made huge losses during the lockdown period. Many of them opting to start culture by 2021. White feces disease all over India prevailed heavily. Many Farmers in recent crop also failed,” Durai Murugan, secretary, Shrimp Association of Pattukottai, and managing director of New Diamond Aqua Enterprise, told FE.
Fofandi adds that the domestic shrimp production would decline by 15% and that would be a setback. Regarding unit price of shrimps he said that except for the Chinese market price of fish is seen improving with trade opening up. He estimates that lower production would help in balancing out the supply-demand and prices would not decline further.
Last month, the state-run Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) had reported that the pandemic led to cancellation of several orders, reduced and delayed payments, slowdown of cargo movements and difficulty in getting new orders.