Modi govt sets firm eyes on the sea as new source of major exports

The government has set its eyes on the sea with an aim of expanding exports and developing capabilities in new goods.

The Economic Survey 2018 showed that the share of marine products in India's export kitty rose by the highest margin among all goods at 29.5 per cent. While India currently has a relatively small 2.7 per cent share in its overall exports, the sector has been upheld as one holding great potential by the Commerce Ministry.

Comprising mainly of shrimps, prawns and fish; India's aquatic exports stood at $5.5 billion in 2016-17 and has seen two consecutive years of growth. Outbound shipments have also fetched the country more than $4.17 billion during the April-October period of the current financial year.

On the back of significant growth in marine exports, the government will prepare, over the next three months, a comprehensive roadmap to double exports of marine products, said Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu last week. This will include measures to strengthen aquaculture production in states, potential collaborations, marketing and integration of supply chains, he added.

The government is also focusing on inland fishery, which has recently made large strides in exports, as a priority area, and is aiming to create a system for all 13 coastal states to work in sync in order to develop the budding sector.

"We have stressed special emphasis on marketing initiatives for Indian exports." a senior Commerce Ministry official said. He added that buyers from newer markets had been targeted at 'Indus Foods' — the global food and beverage show organised by the ministry earlier this month in New Delhi.

The United States (US), followed by South East Asia and the European Union have held steady as the largest markets for Indian seafood exporters. However, domestic producers in the United States have repeatedly asked their government to initiate anti-dumping probes on Indian traders for undercutting prices. The American Shrimp Processors Association has named India, along with Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, China, and Malaysia, as seven of the 13 countries with which the US ran a significant shrimp trade deficit in 2016.

In 2017, the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) voted to extend the anti-dumping orders on imports of frozen warm-water shrimp for five more years. The US imported 188,617 tonnes of Indian seafood in 2016-17. 

On the other hand, accounting for about 18 per cent of total seafood export, the EU had strengthened its inspection norms for aquaculture products sent from India. Earlier, the norm was testing samples from at least 10 per cent of the consignments, which was enhanced to 50 per cent in 2016.

The Economic Survey has also pointed out that engineering goods, gems and jewellery and chemicals continue to rule the roost when it comes to their share in overall exports. While engineering goods have continued to consolidate their top position even in a slowing market, gems and jewellery have lost their sheen a bit during the April-November period of the 2017-18. (Click here to read our full coverage of the Economic Survey)

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