May 5, 2014


India's 2013-14 shrimp exports soar amid spread of disease



Year 2013-14 is turning out to be the best one in the history of seafood exports from India with shipments closing in on the figure of US$5 billion.
Seafood exports had already clocked US$4.4 billion by February 2014.

Global shortage for shrimps due to spread of disease in farms of South East Asia has proved to be a boost to the Indian seafood industry. India is one of the leading suppliers of shrimps in the world market. High prices have benefitted the industry as well as farmers. In 2012-13, seafood exports touched INR18,856 crore (US$3.5 billion). Of the total seafood exports, around 65% revenue has come from vannamei shrimp alone, majority of which has been grown in farms in Andhra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Orissa.


The marine products exports have shown a 40% rise so far in rupee terms with the doubling of shrimp prices to US$18 a kilogramme. Of late, prices have dropped a bit as some producing companies recouped their production. "The aquaculture production touched three lakh tonne last year and may improve further with high demand for Indian shrimps. With farmers using pathogen-free seeds and with good testing facilities of the government and also with big exporters, the risk of diseases has considerably come down," said AJ Tharakan, president of Seafood Exporters Association of India.


With India being a significant exporter of seafood in the world now, there is a lurking fear that the position could be easily jeopardised if farmers or exporters lower their guard on quality standards, especially in the light of the recent ban of Alphonso mangoes by the EU.


The EU quality standards are generally considered to be exemplary models by other countries. The Marine Product Export Development Authority (Mpeda) and exporters have initiated steps to raise quality standards after the EU ban on Indian seafood in the late nineties. After upgrading the processing facilities to EU standards, the farmers were encouraged to go for pre-harvest testing to make the product risk-free at the farm level.


Mpeda has established 20 laboratories apart from own facilities of exporters. Consequently, the rejection of Indian seafood consignments due to the presence of traces of antibiotics or salmonella has drastically come down. EU lowered the sampling for testing from 30% to 10% following the steps. From 59 cases in 2009, rejections to EU have dropped to seven in 2014, of which only one is due to the presence of antibiotics.


With too much stress on the cultured shrimps, the use of antibiotics has gone up to prevent the diseases. It is pointed out that the boom in the seafood exports is prompting some exporters to accept farm shrimps without the pre-harvest testing certificate. This could increase the risk of rejection. The US decision not to impose countervailing duty on Indian shrimps last year has helped boost the seafood exports.