Seafood Exports may SHRINK due to low SHRIMP prices

KOCHI: Indian seafood exports may show lower growth this fiscal as shrimp prices continue to remain low and cautious farmers go slow on production.

While prices of shrimp, which dominates the seafood export basket, are down by 20% from last year, fear of white spot disease and lower prices had forced many farmers to go for partial harvest, resulting in small-sized shrimps, which fetch lower returns compared with the fully grown ones.

“Lower prices have discouraged aquaculture farmers from going for more stocking in the farms for the next harvest, which will be done after a few months,’’ said S Muthukaruppan, former president of Society of Aquaculture Professionals.

Seafood exports had touched a record Rs 45,106 crore last year on the back of high prices and good production of shrimps. The shrimp production in the country scaled a new peak of 600,000 tonnes, making India the top shrimp supplier globally.

“Following tightening of quality standards in the European Union, exporters were focusing more on the US market. The oversupply pulled the prices down,’’ said Muthukaruppan. The US is the largest buyer of Indian seafood with about 33% share. 

Last month, the prices showed signs of improvement only to go down again. “Farmers are cautious as they lost money in the last harvest. Unless the prices stabilise, they may not stock more,” said V Balasubramaniam, general secretary of Prawn Farmers Federation of India.

The Centre’s move to raise the import duty on artemia—a small shrimp used as live feed in shrimp farms—to 15% from 5%, may further hit farmers. Artemia is imported from the US.

“We have met the agriculture and commerce ministers, requesting them to keep the duty down, as it would raise the input cost for farmers. The agriculture ministry is understood to have sent a note to the commerce ministry to maintain the current rate,’’ said L Satyanarain, president of All-India Shrimp Hatcheries Association.

The next big shipment of seafood happens during October-November for the Christmas season. “We hope the prices will improve by then, as the long-term sentiment is good and there are no adverse factors for price decline. Basically, it is a demand-supply mismatch,’’ said Kenny Thomas, MD of Jinny Marine Traders, an exporter based in Gujarat.


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