Staff Reporter

Industry urged to enhance aid for export

KOCHI: Export of seafood from India is likely to be worth over $4 billion by 2010 from current export estimates of $2 billion, provided the capacity of its fleet of fish catching vessels are expanded by equipping them with more accurate remote sensing tools as also substantially enhancing fiscal assistance to seafood exporters through Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA).

In a paper brought out by Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) on `Neglected Seafood Exports,' it has been projected that India's seafood exports, which stagnated at $1.6 billion in 2005-06 and moved up to $2 billion in first nine months of current fiscal, have the potential to accelerate faster in view of their growing demand in trading blocs such as the European Union, the United States, Canada and West Asia.

The paper suggests that the current fleet of fish catching vessels in the country is less than 50,000 in number with the capacity of each remaining at about 1.5 tonnes.

This capacity needs to be expanded to 5 tonnes to increase fish acreage with the latest remote sensing equipment to exploit the deep shipping potential of India's marine products.

Financial assistance

The paper has pointed out that the financial assistance extended by MPEDA to marine products exporters in the last three to four years has declined considerably from Rs.784.01 lakh to Rs.735.83 lakh in the following year and to Rs.607.91 lakh by March 31, 2006. This had affected seafood exports, which had been growing consistently at an average rate of 10 per cent a year.

Poor financial assistance to marine product exporters is one of the causes for India's poor export performance. However, the paper cautioned that in the emerging global thrust to adoption of hygienic production practices for adhering to the World Trade Organisation standards, compliance to Hazard Analysis And Clinical Control Point (HACCP) by seafood exporters is a prerequisite.

The supply chain in India is not strong enough to meet these rigorous standards. Unless capacity building of the 1.5 billion fishermen is reinforced by MPEDA, quality improvements would take longer than envisaged.

Incidentally, the whole area of attention to fishermen remains neglected as out of 40 exporting schemes of MPEDA, only one is devoted to fishermen.

Export to Canada, Tunisia, Puerto rico, Russia, Lithuania, Fiji Island and Bangladesh showed a positive growth, whereas export to Mexico, Cyprus, Australia and the Maldives showed a negative trend. India's major export items include frozen fish, cuttlefish, squid and dried items.

States such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Gujarat and Orissa have huge marine products potential that needs to be harnessed in a manner that can enhance India's export potential provided all possible incentives and encouragement in terms of policies and finance is given to exporters, according to the paper.