KOCHI: The sluggish international trade caused by rising COVID concerns has taken its toll on the Indian seafood export sector. The country’s seafood exports contracted by 10.88 percent in 2020-21 as the volume declined from 12,89,651 tonnes in 2019-20 to 11,49,341 tonnes this financial year.
In 2019-20, India had exported 12,89,651 tonnes of seafood worth Rs 46,662.85 crore. The decline in terms of rupee value is 6.31 percent, while it is 10.81 percent in dollar value.
The leading importers were the USA, China, and the European Union, while frozen shrimp retained its position as the major export item followed by frozen fish.
“The pandemic has drastically affected seafood exports during the first half of the year, but they revived well during the last quarter. The aquaculture sector performed better during this fiscal by contributing 67.99 percent of exported items in dollar terms and 46.45 percent in quantity,” said Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) Chairman K S Srinivas.
Frozen shrimp contributed 51.36 percent of the exports in quantity and 74.31 percent of the total dollar earnings. The USA remained the largest importer, accounting for 2,72,041 tonnes followed by China (1,01,846 tonne), European Union (70,133 tonnes), Japan (40,502 tonnes), South East Asia (38,389 tonnes), and the Middle East (29,108 tonnes).
However, shrimp exports declined by 9.47 percent in dollar value and 9.50 percent in quantity. The overall shrimp export was 5,90,275 tonnes worth USD 4,426.19 million. The export of Vannamei (white leg) shrimp decreased from 5,12,204 tonne in 2019-20 to 4,92,271 tonne in 2020-21. Of the total Vannamei shrimp exports, 56.37 percent was exported to the USA, followed by China (15.13 percent), European Union (7.83 percent), South East Asia (5.76 percent), Japan (4.96 percent), and the Middle East (3.59 percent).
Japan, the major market for Black Tiger shrimp, had a share of 39.68 percent in dollar terms, followed by the USA (26.03 percent), South East Asia (9.32 percent), EU (8.95%), the Middle East (6.04 percent) and China (3.76 percent).
Frozen fish, with a share of 16.37 percent in quantity and 6.75 percent in dollar earnings, retained the second position in the exports basket though its shipments plummeted by 15.76 percent in quantity and 21.67 percent in dollar terms.
Frozen squid and frozen cuttlefish exports declined in volume by 30.19 percent and 16.38 percent, respectively. However, the export of dried fish showed an increase of 1.47 percent and 17 percent in quantity and rupee value, respectively.
Shipments of chilled and live fish, which were negatively affected due to the reduced air cargo connectivity, fell by 16.89 percent and 39.91 percent in volume, respectively.
The share of capture fisheries reduced from 56.03 percent to 53.55 percent in quantity. However, tilapia and ornamental fish performed well with 55.83 percent and 66.55 percent increase in quantity and an uptick of 38.07 percent and 14.63 percent in dollar earnings, respectively. Tuna showed a 14.6 percent increase in quantity, but its dollar earnings fell 7.39 percent. Crab and scampi exports
reduced both in quantity and value.
Several factors, including the pandemic impact, have negatively impacted seafood exports, said Srinivas. On the production side, there were reduced fish landings due to fewer fishing days. Slow logistics movements and market uncertainties added to the crisis. Scarcity of workers in fishing and processing plants, paucity of containers at seaports, increased air freight charges and limited flight availability affected exports, especially of high-value chilled and live products, he said.