Fisheries Minister Vinod Palyekar would like a ban imposed on marine product export from Goa in order to make fish cheaper for Goans. His idea is more a rhetoric for the consumption of Goans than churning of any serious proposal to ban marine product export. First of all, he will have to examine whether a state can impose a state-specific ban on the export of a particular set of product groups. Will the central government allow Goa to impose a ban when its ministry of commerce and Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) are dedicated to promotion of exports of marine products from the country? The second thing Palyekar would have to examine is whether such a ban would work to achieve its end. There are ports in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala that will continue to export marine products. Will not the trade find its ways of sending the Goa yield out from elsewhere?
The third thing Palyekar has to examine is whether a ban will be an incentive for increasing the yield of marine products from Goa or a disincentive. There has been a progressive increase in total yield of marine products in Goa. Over the past decade, the total yield has registered a growth of more than 25 per cent. Roughly, about 30 per cent of the marine products yield from Goa is exported. It is not that the total fish yield from Goa has been declining but the export has been going up. The exports are a manageable proportion of the production. So blaming exports alone for high fish prices might not hold water. There might be other reasons, such as rising cost of production and trade malpractices. Those are issues that Palyekar needs to address.
Palyekar only needs to take a look at the vegetable retail market in Goa to understand how impractical his idea of imposing a ban on fish export from Goa is. The state government has no means of regulating the prices of vegetables sold in the retail market. These prices are determined by the circumstances of the wholesale markets from where the supplies to the state come from. In order to provide Goans cheaper vegetables the government has opened outlets. The fisheries department has been trying to replicate the model. Palyekar should do more on creating a robust network of affordable fish supplies for the Goans instead of generating false hopes among them of the prices of fish coming down in the retail market with a ban on fish export.
On the contrary, the Fisheries Minister of Goa should be working harder for promotion of exports of marine products from Goa. There are eight categories of marine products exported from coastal states of India: Frozen, canned, freeze-dried, live, dried and chilled marine products, ornamental fish and other edible/non-edible marine products. The marine product export from the Goa port rose from 35,700 tonnes in 2010-11 to 45,000 tonnes in 2014-15. In terms of value, the export rose from Rs 275 crore to Rs 570 crore during the period. The quantum growth notwithstanding, export of marine products from Goa port remained far below exports from the Mangalore port or Kochi port. From the Mangalore port, the export rose from 10,500 tonnes (valued at Rs 688 crore) in 2010-11 to 1,15,500 tonnes (Rs 1,363 crore) in 2014-15. The increase in marine products exports from the Kochi port during the corresponding period were from 1,21,550 tonnes (Rs 1,900 crore) to 1,63,000 tonnes (Rs 4,450 crore). The corresponding growth of total marine products exports from all ports of India during the period was from 8,13,100 tonnes (Rs 13,000 crore) to 10,51,240 tonnes (Rs 33,450 crore). Goa’s marine product exports therefore constituted in quantity only 4 per cent of the total India exports annually from 2010-11 to 2014-15.
Exports earn foreign exchange for the country and increase earnings of fishermen, traders and service providers in the local state economies. The central government has created institutions and schemes to promote marine product exports. The Marine Products Export Development Authority organizes training programmes of 3-5 days duration on sustainable shrimp aquaculture and diversification for the benefit of fish farmers, members of SC/ST communities and to individuals who wish to take up aquaculture. The MPEDA also organizes inter-state study tours of fish farms, hatcheries and feed mills for fish farmers. The MPEDA gives awards for export performance in various categories every year. In the past eight years Goa got just one award (for development of new markets). Palyekar should work for increasing Goa’s share in India exports and helping Goan exporters get more awards, instead of threatening to close down their business.