Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma on Friday endorsed the seafood exporter community’s demand that fisheries be treated on a par with agriculture.
Inaugurating the 17th edition of the India International Seafood Show-2010, hosted by the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) and the Seafood Exporters’ Association of India (SEAI) here, Mr. Sharma said he would “support in Cabinet” any move by the Agriculture Ministry to provide the fisheries sector the same incentives and credit linkages as agriculture enjoyed.
The Minister wanted seafood exporters to ensure better quality control and technology infusion to garner a bigger share in the global market. He stressed the need to upgrade the MPEDA laboratories for pre-harvest and post-harvest quality checks to ensure compliance with international standards.
Referring to export obstacles put up by some countries, Mr. Sharma said these involved not just seafood but other commodities as well. He assured the exporters that the government would take up issues of “unfair trade practices” by some countries at the appropriate fora.
Minister of State for Agriculture, K.V. Thomas said in the keynote address that the proposed Marine Fisheries (Regulation and Management) Bill sought to streamline the scientific exploitation of exclusive economic zones, protect fisheries resources and strengthen national security.
Pointing to fears of some State governments that that the Bill would restrict their rights, he said these apprehensions was allayed at a recent inter-Ministerial consultation in New Delhi.
“The aim is not to restrict the rights of the State governments or traditional fishermen but to regularise fishing in the present context of national security,” he said.
Calling for an increased thrust on value addition in seafood exports, he urged the exporters to graduate from semi-processed raw materials to processed foods. He pointed out that the MPEDA planned to increase exports from the current $2 billion to $4 billion by 2012 and $6 billion by 2017.
Tamil Nadu Fisheries Minister K.P.P. Samy said the government accorded priority to the fisheries sector. It had launched various welfare measures to protect and revive the sector in the post-tsunami rehabilitation effort.
Orissa Agriculture Minister Damodar Rout outlined the measures undertaken by his government to promote the fisheries sector.
Leena Nair, MPEDA chairman, Anwar Hashim, SEAI president, and Elias Sait, SEAI secretary-general, also spoke.