labels: foods / beverages
Commerce ministry sees something ''fishy'' in seafood biz news
06 June 2007

The shrimp has attained pole position in India''s marine exports. The commerce ministry is backing the tuna to pull it down a notch or two.

India''s seafood exports have risen by $500 million in the last four years, a growth scaled in the previous 10 years at a little under $2 billion, which is a fraction of India''s total exports of $125 billion.

The seafood exports are hugely job generating, employing about three million people. About 55 per cent of those exports are of shrimp alone, which has the commerce ministry worried.
"First and foremost is taking steps to reduce dependence on shrimp," says Jairam Ramesh, minister of state and commerce. "We are starting a major initiative located in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, for promotion of tuna". The other initiative is to increase value addition, currently at a measly 15 per cent. An effort is also on to increase the size of seafood exports.

For that to happen, more shrimp will have to be exported, but disease stands in the way. So the Andamans will be declared a bio-safety zone for rearing of pathogen-free root stock or mother shrimp. And as Europe, India''s largest buyer of seafood, turns increasingly finicky about health, India will turn organic too, beginning with India''s southern most state.

"Our goal is to make Kerala totally organic in the next five years," adds Ramesh.

The interesting aspect about seafood exports is the revival of the Japanese market and the emergence of China as a big buyer. Indian seafood exporters have a lot of spare capacity. One idea is to process imported fish for exports but the move has been stalled by a fear that it will find its way to the domestic market and eat into the livelihood of local fisherfolk. So it is a toss up between shrimp and tuna.


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Commerce ministry sees something ''fishy'' in seafood biz