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Fisheries >Capture Fisheries > Indian Seafood Industry

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 private.

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 insufficient.

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 increasing risk.

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 more restrictive.

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 origin.

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 mutually reinforcing.

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 Regulations

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.

USA Regulations

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 - ). 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.

Japanese 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 and storage.

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).



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