Red tape threatens Indian seafood exports

By Ankush Chibber

- Last updated on GMT

India's seafood industry, shaken up by new mandatory registration
India's seafood industry, shaken up by new mandatory registration
A new bureaucratic diktat in India is threatening to derail the country’s thriving seafood trade – despite the vehement protests from other government agencies.

Under a notification issued at the beginning of March 2012 by the Ministry of Commerce’s Export Inspection Council (EIC), it is now mandatory for all vessels supplying fish for export to register with it.

The notice means that only EIC-registered vessels can supply fish for export and exporters have to purchase raw materials from this source only.

A spokesperson for the ministry told FoodNavigator-Asia that the notification and the set of instructions supersede all other registration requirements for now.

The regulation around seafood exports has always been in line with the federal nature of Indian governance - boats are registered under the fishery departments of the various coastal states concerned.

In addition, vessels could also register under the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), which works for the promotion of seafood exports.

A spokesperson for MPEDA, which is also a government agency, said: “There is not enough time for this registration process. And more regulation in the sector is not favourable. On top of that, not all boat owners would be able to meet the extensive requirements under EIC’s process.”

Local boat owners in Bombay, who this reporter spoke to, said that the most of the requirements are not practical and come at a time when other input costs are high such as fuel.

For example, one of the requirements is for vessels to have storage facilities equipped with tanks at a temperature approaching that of melting ice.

These containers also have to be separated from the machinery and crew quarters by partitions, but most Indian seagoing fishing boats would need to be upgraded to accommodate such features, he said.

“It is a problem. if exports stop, the entire sector including the domestic market would suffer eventually. The price of fish depends mainly on the demand from export units,”​ one boat owner said.

Fish production in India is likely to hit 12m tonnes by 2015 from the current level of about 9.3m tonnes, according to a study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM),

The report indicates that nearly 30% of marine and fish annually produced in India is exported and the processing of fish into canned and frozen forms is carried out almost entirely for the export market.

Seafood exports from India could reach US$4.7bn by 2013 from the current level of US$2.8bn through value addition, expansion of aquaculture, technology upgrades, and tapping of unexplored resources, the study added. 

Related topics: Policy, South Asia, Supply chain, Seafood

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