Sluggish shrimp production hits Indian seafood export

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KOCHI: Seafood exports from India are yet to gather momentum as low prices, adverse weather conditions and diseases continue to affect stocking of shrimps, which account for about three-fourths of the revenue from export of marine products.

This apart, seafood exporters are facing pressure from the seafood import monitoring programme (SIMP) being implemented by the US—the largest buyer of Indian shrimps. India exports marine products worth about Rs 45,000 crore every year.
Normally, the shrimp farms in Andhra Pradesh—the largest cultivator in the country—start stocking young shrimps by December-January for harvest by April. But this year it may get extended to February. “Low prices, unusual cold weather, and diseases like EHD, white spot and white faeces syndrome have forced farmers to go slow on production,” said D Ramraj, president of All India Shrimp Hatcheries Association.

India had produced over 600,000 tonnes of shrimps last year. In the coming fiscal year, the industry has already predicted a 10-15% drop due to sluggishness in prices and glut in the market. Though shrimp prices improved in export markets in the second half of the year, they are still comparatively low.

After high purchases for Christmas season, inventory in the US and other countries is expected to be high. “But we expect it get liquidated and the demand to pick up in the coming months in the US,” said Abdul Karim, managing director of Wellcome Fisheries Ltd., an exporter. The US, China and Southeast Asian countries are the main buyers of Indian seafood now.

Meanwhile, exporters have started complying the US-implemented SIMP, which will help in traceability of the product in case of discrepancies. To educate Indian shrimp farmers, exporters and the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) have been conducting awareness classes on SIMP for a few months now.

“Basically, the exporter has to give details of the origin of the product, like which vessel caught it or which farm produced it, to the importer who will keep a record of it. Though antibiotics don’t come under its purview, SIMP may help in finding banned antibiotic usage in the product,’’ said a senior executive at MPEDA.
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In the US shrimp market, India may face stiff competition from other countries in the coming months. “The production in Ecuador, Indonesia and Vietnam have been good,” said Ramraj.
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