Sea food exports contribute significantly to Goa’s foreign exchange, but unfortunately the sector hardly ever gets its due. Most Goans view exports with distrust because according to them, exporters corner the best of catch and leave little for local consumption. A sizeable segment of the lay populace in fact is quite critical of marine exports and point out that it must not be encouraged.
Nonetheless despite the judgmental view, exports of frozen fish from Goa are on the upswing. The previous year, 2016-17 was bumper year for local exporters with volumes registering a surge of 38 per cent over 2015-16 (see table.) The industry comprising of about nine odd units did total exports of 44,735 tons valued at roughly over Rs 200 crore. Local units performed better than all-India industry where the growth rate in exports was 19 per cent.
Fish is consumed world-wide and demand for it in the overseas market remains strong. The government also is very keen for the industry to thrive due to its positive contribution to foreign trade. So, local exporters are hoping for better environment for conducting the trade. And to strengthen the ecosystem they are planning to meet up with the commerce minister, Suresh Prabhu on Monday during his brief visit to the state.
On the other hand the outlook for exports in 2017-18 looks choppy, according to unit owners. Exporter, Narsimhan Poojary, Goan Bounty, says that, the season is made a U-turn after bonanza performance. “Last year I had good earnings but this year I am not sure,” he says. According to Poojari, the export market is turned dull due to lack of large orders from overseas buyers. “The cargo is moving slowly and the rate quoted is low. The international market looks down from all angles,” he says.
The reason according to Poojari, is lack of Chinese buyers in the market. Reports are that the Chinese government has imposed lot of restrictions on imports and their economy weak. Chinese buyers, it is said, cannot pay the freight rate. “China is a bulk importer. In 2016-17 we sold large quantities of ribbon fish to them. This year although we have the fish with us there is no demand from China,” says a worried Poojari. He is estimating a 30 per cent drop in business in 2017-18 if things do not turnaround.
At the all-India level however the mood is upbeat despite the fact that the major importing countries are taking protectionist measures to safeguard their local industries. The government especially is optimistic and expects sea food exports to grow 20 per cent in the current year.
Recently the World Trade Center, Goa, conducted a seminar on export potential of marine products. The seminar focused on difficulties faced by local exporters and measures to overcome it. Major findings were that, Goan fish catch is poor and units have to purchase nearly 80 per cent of their fish requirements from Maharashtra or neighboring states. The value-addition of local exports is poor resulting in low per unit realization.
Cut-throat competition, complicated export procedures, irregular power supply, inability to maintain quality standards and hygiene issues are the problems facing local units. Exports are primarily to Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines. Local units do not export to Europe as they cannot comply with EU standards. Further the state lacks in in-house testing and certification facilities needed to seek new markets.
Shrimps comprise the chunk of export but ground level check reveals that there are no testing facilities in the western coast for shrimp farmers to test their produce (against antibiotics).