K. Venkiteswaran

KOCHI: The focus of the Indian seafood exporters has shifted to European Union in the wake of the persistence of the economic slowdown in the U.S. and in the Japanese markets.

While European Union accounted for over 32 per cent of the foreign exchange earnings during the first half of the current year, Japan and the U.S. accounted for less, at 15 and 13 per cent respectively.

The anti-dumping duty imposed on Indian shrimp exporters to the U.S. has motivated the industry to diversify its field of operations, sources in the Seafood Exporters Association of India here said. And this has begun to pay rich dividends. Exports to competing destinations such as China and South East Asia have accelerated to almost 13 and 10 per cent. This has pared the gap with traditional market leaders such as Japan and the U.S.

Diversified market

A more diversified market with wholesome export basket and a wide spectrum of products – shrimp, cuttlefish, squids, frozen fish and value-added ready-to-cook products – would be the best export profile for Indian exporters. Frozen fish has risen to 30 per cent in the export basket and 15 per cent of the value during the first six months and is now next only to shrimp, Anwar Hashim, president of the SEAI said. Frozen fish has overtaken both cuttlefish and squid in volumes and value.

Though low in value, frozen fish like ribbon fish and mackerel have started to make a significant contribution to the total value realisations. Ribbon fish exports to China have shown a substantial increase of 50 -60 per cent in unit value and is getting reflected in the export proceeds. Mackerel exports to Thailand and Malaysia has picked up in the recent past and together they are contributing significantly to the total volume of frozen fish exports from India, Mr. Hashim said.

The biggest exporter destination in South East Asia is Thailand, in both volume and value. Thailand today is virtually on a par with Spain, the biggest export destination for Indian seafood in the EU. Mackerel catches from the coast of Thailand and few other South East Asian countries have been coming down in the recent past, which has been contributing to the demand.

After Goa, exports of mackerel have commenced from Kochi Port also this year, he said.