An Overview of Indian
Seafood Export Sector
Marine exports from India reached 6.12 lakhs MT in quantity and Rs. 8,363 crores
in value during 2006-07. Frozen shrimp accounted for 22% of the total quanity and
54% of total value of exported marine products.
The European Union (EU), United States (US) and Japan import a major proportion
of India's exports in terms of value, at a level of 33%, 16% and 16% respectively.
Frozen shrimp continued to be the largest item exported in terms of value with 54%
of the total value of export.
The modernisation of Indian seafood industry is inextricably linked to the growth
of shrimp export trade, which in turn is closely related to trade liberalisation.
Subsidies and other assistance play a crucial catalytic role in the development
of the export sector, although the quantum of assistance declined subsequently as
private sector took over the activities.
Promoting the sea as an open access resource has been an important subsidy in the
modernisation period and other direct subsidies encouraged entry of outsiders and
Exports have come to account for a quarter of the contribution of fisheries to the
Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Culture shrimp contributes four-fifths of the total
shrimp exports, which is mainly because of the decline in marine catches than from
increased production from culture sources.
The emphasis on production is not supplemented by developing adequate infrastructure
facilities to support them; the availability and quality of infrastructure remains
The growth of shrimp trade brought a number of new intermediaries into the market
chain along with a complex range of trade relationships. It also necessitated entry
of private capital and informal credit into the fisheries sector in a big way and
led to overcapitalisation of fishing activities in due course.
Since 1990s, three issues dominated Indian export scene: decline in overall catches,
particularly shrimp; fluctuations in international markets depressing prices and
profitability; and overcapitalisation of the production and marketing activities
Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and Technical
Barriers to Trade of Fish and Fish products
International trade in fish and fishery products has grown rapidly over the last
two decades. The share of developing countries' has risen from 40% to 50%, and their
net receipts increased from under US$4 billion to almost US$18 billion.
Increasingly complex requirements for food safety assurance and traceability set
by major markets, particularly in the EU and North America, represent a threat to
existing exporters and a ‘barrier' to new entrants. Increasingly stringent
quality standards create a bias in favour of countries with a highly developed infrastructure
and larger suppliers with greater resources.
In 2005, the EU General Food Law (178/2002) introduced a harmonized framework for
food safety assurance from farm to the consumer across the 25 EU members.
The EU food industry has created standards on grounds of food safety assurance,
environmental management and social welfare issues. Major importing countries are
tightening their food safety legislation and demanding the adoption by exporting
countries of agreed inspection, examination and certification procedures. These
various measures can be viewed as non-tariff barriers (NTB) to trade and are becoming
As tariffs are reduced, alternative forms of protection might be utilized, including
arbitrary technical barriers and sanitary and phytosanitary measures.
The Uruguay Round Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures
(the SPS Agreement) and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) adopted
by WTO members in 1995 have given a new direction to the international food trade.
These agreements are intended to ensure that requirements such as quality, labelling
and methods of analysis applied to internationally traded goods are not misleading
to the consumer or discriminate in favour of domestic producers or goods of different
The SPS agreement was set up to avoid sanitary standards being used as an unjustified
barrier to trade by importing countries. The agreement stresses that SPS measures
should be scientifically based as well as the importance of risk assessment in determining
the appropriate levels of SPS measures.
Of crucial importance are transparency in the development and implementation of
measures and the adoption of international standards. The SPS agreement gives status
and legal force to the standards set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The Codex
Alimentarius – or food code – was created in 1963 by FAO and WHO to
develop food standards and guidelines and has become a global reference point for
consumers, food producers and processors, national food control agencies and the
international food trade.
The SPS Agreement applies only to measures covering food safety, animal and plant
life and human health. Other technical measures outside this area come within the
scope of the TBT Agreement. The SPS and TBT Agreements are thus complementary and
The TBT agreement tries to balance the trade facilitating aspects of standards against
their trade-distorting potential by obligating countries to ensure that technical
regulations and standards, including packaging, marking and labeling requirements
and procedures for assessment of conformity with technical regulations and standards,
do not create unnecessary obstacles to international trade or discriminate in favour
of domestic producers or goods of different origins.
European Union standards are enforced and regulated at the country level and thus
a restriction of exports to the EU under the regulations affects all members of
the export community.
A country has to be licensed to export to the EU, and then each individual exporting
company has to apply to the ‘competent authority' within the exporting country
for permission to do so. The main directive was published in 1991 (91/493/EEC –
‘Laying down the health conditions for the production and the placing on the
market of fishery products').
EU legislation for all food products is being brought under one directive and the
scope is being extended to all aspects of the supply chain from ‘farm to fork'.
All the steps in the chain from primary producers (fishermen and aquaculture units)
will need to take on board, in a more structured manner, the principles of Hazard
Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems and other quality assurance needs
thus broadening the scope of the competent authority in regulating the industry.
The EU is the only one of the three principal importers to use safeguard measures
on fishery products. The EU uses two types of measures:
Safeguard clause, i.e. quota tariffs to support the fish-processing sector.
Reference price system to stop imports undermining domestic prices.
Imports into the USA are regulated under the Federal Regulations, often referred
to as 21 CFR 123 (US FDA Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Website - www.fda.gov ). These regulations
apply to domestically produced products and imports.
They require that processors of fish and fishery products operate preventive control
systems that incorporate the seven principles of HACCP.
The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) is the main regulating agency in the USA
and provides guidance and assistance to the industry in complying with the regulations.
There is no mandatory requirement for compliance to HACCP regulations either for
domestic processors, or external suppliers. Standards for imports of fish and fishery
products into Japan are governed by the legislation set out in the Food Sanitation
Law and the Quarantine Law.
The laws prohibit inter alia the imports for sale of unsanitary foods, foods not
conforming to prescribed specifications of composition, standards of manufacture
The consignments are checked for signs of decomposition, presence of foreign matter
and contaminants (e.g. antibiotic residues, mercury and pesticides). Further information
and details of regulations governing the import of seafood can be found on the Japanese
External Trade Organization (JETRO).