India’s seafood export industry provided relief to the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The country shipped 12,89,651 MT of seafood with a total value of Rs 46,662.85 crore (USD 6.68 billion) in the financial year 2019-20. Frozen shrimp was the largest export item in terms of value and quantity, followed by frozen fish. The United States and China were the largest importers of Indian seafood. Although the quantity and USD value declined by 7.39 per cent and 0.74 per cent, respectively, the exports improved by 0.16 per cent in Rupee terms compared to the previous year.
Chairman of the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), K S Srinivas, attributed this success to the fact that the exports maintained high quantities despite the sluggish demand in major export markets caused by the pandemic. The pandemic led to several order cancellations, reduced and delayed payments, slowdown of cargo movements, and difficulties in getting new orders. The decline in sea catch due to reduced fishing days along the west coast of India also contributed to the shortfall in quantity.
Frozen shrimp accounted for 50.58 per cent of the quantity and 73.21 per cent of the total dollar earnings, retaining its position as the largest item in India’s seafood exports. Shrimp exports increased by 6.04 per cent in dollar value and 6.20 per cent in quantity. Frozen shrimp exports earned Rs 34,152.03 crore (USD 4,889.12 million), with the United States importing the most frozen shrimp, followed by China, the European Union, Japan, South East Asia, and the Middle East.
Vannamei (white leg) shrimp exports increased from 4,18,128 MT to 5, 12,189 MT, with the United States and China accounting for 51.07 per cent and 21.81 per cent of total exports, respectively. The United States also became the major market for Black Tiger shrimp, accounting for 36.88 per cent of total exports. Frozen fish was the second-largest export item, accounting for 17.32 per cent of the quantity and 7.69 per cent of the dollar earnings.
Although frozen fish exports decreased by 34.11 per cent in quantity and 26.53 per cent in dollar value, the export of frozen cuttlefish showed positive growth of 17.76 per cent in quantity, 1.71 per cent in Rupee value, and 1.45 per cent in dollar terms. The chilled items sector also exhibited growth of 23.22 per cent, 2.53 per cent, and 1.29 per cent in terms of quantity, Rupee value, and USD earnings, respectively. However, exports of frozen squid and dried items decreased during the period.
In terms of overseas markets, the United States remained the largest importer of Indian seafood in value terms, importing seafood worth USD 2,562.54 million, accounting for 38.37 per cent of the dollar value. The export to the United States registered growth of 8.25 per cent in quantity, 10.38 per cent in Rupee value, and 9.30 per cent in USD earnings.