Pandemic, trade barriers hit seafood exports

Marine products exporters have said their business has gone through one of its “worst years” in 2020-21 and recorded a drop of turnover and volume of around 20% with markets hit by China being almost closed to India and EEC trade barriers.

In an appeal to the Union government, the seafood exporters claimed that Russia and other markets were not being aggressively pursued by the government.

The industry had also been affected by the COVID-19 lockdown, affecting the labour flow seriously. Besides, the crash in the price of raw materials had seriously affected the supplies of raw materials. The viability of aquaculture shrimp farming and related activities and capture fisheries have been seriously affected too.

The Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana Scheme will help the fisheries sector both capture and culture mostly at the primary levels of production and infrastructure in the long run. However, there is no direct support to the export sector in the scheme, or even any kind of stimulus offered during the pandemic to any export sector.

There is sickness brewing in the sector with many small exporters on the verge of being classified as NPAs, particularly those depending predominantly on the ocean catches or capture fisheries, mostly located on the west coast.

Added to this, banks have started increasing interest rates by downgrading the exporters’ credit ratings as they have not been able to keep up with their sales projections owing to the pandemic.

The sector is highly employment-oriented, with a workforce of more than 15 million, but it had not been included in the list of sectors for additional financial support by the banks, the exporters said.