Coronavirus threat disrupts crab exports from India

The outbreak of coronavirus in China has started impacting live crab shipments from Kerala in the wake of restrictions being imposed on such consignments to that country.

Red female crab (a species of mud crab) is the most popular variety in China. Following restrictions, many wholesale dealers have stopped procurement of such crabs from small dealers, who collect it directly from local fishermen in the coastal belts.

MS Damish, AMS & Co, Ayyampilli near Kochi, which supplies crabs to wholesalers in Chennai told Business Line that the crisis has started affecting the market when prices are on a higher side at 1,250 per kg. This has resulted in piling up of stock with small scale dealers.

The unexpected crisis has started affecting the trade as several local fishermen in and around Kochi are carrying out crab rearing in traditional shrimp farms and other water bodies. This is the time of harvest and higher returns started reviving the market in recent times.

Green crabs (another species of mud crab) are also popular in Singapore and has a price tag of 2,300 per kg. Though there was some trade disruptions earlier, it has resumed, he said. On an average, 1,500-2,000 kg of crabs are being moved to wholesalers on a daily basis, he added.

Since crabs are shipped alive, there is always a possibility of imposing stringent norms by importing countries. The USP of red female crabs is its lifespan for seven days after packed in special cartons, compared with three days of other crab varieties, a senior official in Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute said.

However, there is no official data available on the movement of live crabs from the State, as it is an unorganised business carried out by many intermediaries through local collection centres. Apart from Kochi, fishermen in the coastal areas of Kollam, Kannur, and Malappuram are also involved in crab farming, the official said.