Leena Nair

Chairperson, Marine Products Exports Development Authority (MPEDA), India

Interview

February 15, 2016

/ By



Targets USD 10 billion by 2020

Leena Nair, Chairperson, Marine Products Exports Development Authority (MPEDA), India

Leena Nair, Chairperson, Marine Products Exports Development Authority (MPEDA), India


 
Despite obstacles such as aquaculture diseases and numerous trade barriers, export of marine products from India has witnessed a steady rise in the past decade. Though exports to Gulf countries were minuscule, Leena Nair sees immense scope and discusses challenges and the road ahead for India’s marine exports.
 
It’s been six years since you joined as Marine Products Exports Development Authority (MPEDA) Chairperson. What according to you are the most notable initiatives taken under your command?
 
MPEDA has been notified as the competent authority by the government of India for the validation of catch certificate for the export of seafood to European Union (EU) in accordance with the IUU Regulation that combats illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. We have set up 21 ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) labs for the detection of antibiotics in seafoods. Two subregional offices, two sub-regional centres and one satellite centre of MPEDA have also been set up in different states.

Pre-Harvest Tests (PHT) for the detection of antibiotics in cultured shrimps have been introduced. Mapping of aquaculture ponds based on satellite data and physical verification through GPS has also been initiated. In a first-of-its-kind for India, the aquaculture, pathology and genetics lab under the RGCA (the R&D arm of MPEDA) has received NABL (National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories) accreditation. The RGCA has also been actively involved in developing aquaculture technologies of exportable varieties of all male gift Tilapia, cobia, mangrove mud crab, groupers and sea bass. We have also introduced L Vannamei or whiteleg shrimp in the Indian aquaculture field. Implementation of United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) pilot project on mud crab culture in the mangrove areas of Sindhudurg, Maharashtra, has also been taken up to facilitate an alternate avocation to produce exportable variety of mudcrab for local fishermen. Training in tuna handling is also being carried out under the guidance of FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) expert.

Additionally, issues related to Ethoxyquin in seafood raised by the Japanese health authorities and of anti-dumping duty and CVD (countervailing duties) imposed by the USA for the shipment of shrimps to USA have also been resolved. Implementation of e-governance under the Digital India programme is also underway. Online registrations of processing entities, aquaculture farms, exporter’s registration and subsidy details are in place. Dissemination of shrimp prices in key markets like USA, EU and Japan is made available to farmers through SMS on a missed call. An app called m-Krishi has also been launched for aquaculture farmers.

 

EU is the prime destination for value added marine products followed by USA

EU is the prime destination for value added marine products followed by USA

There has been a steady growth of exports of marine products through the implementation of schemes and we have shipped one million ton export cargo valued at USD 5.51 billion for the first time.

India, through MPEDA, exports seafood to 100 countries. What are the biggest challenges that different stakeholders face?

Sudden outbreak of aquaculture disease is a big challenge. Trade barriers also act as a roadblock. The development of multilateral trade negotiations in the world market has led to the reduction of tariff barriers and, as a result, many of the importing countries have started introducing non-tariff barriers to protect the domestic industry. Anti-dumping and countervailing duties by USA for the export of shrimps from India is one example. Some importing countries have also imposed stringent quality standards with respect to chemical and biological parameters in seafood that are stricter than the internationally accepted levels. The Australian Bio Security Advice for the export of marine products to Australia is another hurdle.

Besides these factors, antibiotic residues and low share of value added products in the total marine exports from the country are some challenges that stakeholders face.

Last year, you announced that MPEDA is planning to focus on exporting frozen shrimp and fish, cuttle fish, frozen squid, live and dried items and chilled sea food to Middle East. Has the plan fructified?

Yes. The export of marine products has increased to Middle East substantially. During 2014- 15, we have exported 64,608 MT marine products worth USD 33.1 million, registering a growth of 11.32 pc in quantity and 22.17 pc in terms of dollar.

What is the present state of processing of seafood in India as value products fetch higher returns to all the stakeholders?

During 2014-15, we exported 95,436 MT of value added marine products worth USD 746.59 million with a growth rate of 17.60 pc over the previous year. The major contributor to this sector is value added shrimp items that fetched more than 75 pc value in US dollar terms. Frozen squid is the second biggest item in this category. EU is the prime destination for our value added products followed by USA.

You recently stated that the target of doubling seafood export to USD 10 billion by 2020 is achievable. How do you plan to do this?

We are optimistic in achieving the target set for 2020. The focus of production will be from aquaculture sector and the production will be enhanced by expanding culture area, reviving abandoned farms, popularising cage culture, ensuring adequate supply of SPF seeds, bio security measures to control the losses due to disease outbreaks and diversification of candidate species like mud crab, cobia, sea bass, tilapia, pangasius, SPF and Pmonodon shrimps, to name a few.

What has been the export performance of seafood from India over the last decade?

There has been more than 100 pc increase in the quantity of marine products exported during the last decade. Value-wise, there has been an increase of more than 462 pc in rupee terms.

What is the current status of MPEDA’s plans to disseminate information to farmers related to price of various products in the international market through SMS?

We have already implemented the dissemination of shrimps prices in major markets like USA, EU and Japan through SMS to farmers. Fortnightly prices of Black tiger and L. Vannamei shrimps are uploaded in the SMS applications. The prices (indicative C&F price in Indian Rupee) are obtained from data published by INFOFISH (an inter-governmental organisation of the FAO). The price information to farmers will provide them with the current market trends, thus enabling them to make an informed decision on harvest of their produce. The service is provided free of cost to farmers and can be obtained by farmers across India.

What are the steps taken by MPEDA to prepare Indian fishermen for deep sea fishing?

MPEDA has taken several steps for encouraging deep sea fishing for under exploited resources like yellow fin tuna. We have assisted the conversion of more than 800 fishing vessels for deep sea fishing for augmenting oceanic tuna production. Apart from this, MPEDA had imparted on-board training to select fishermen for scientific catching of tuna by monofilament long line and its onboard handling for better remuneration by availing the assistance of foreign experts.

Frozen shrimp continues to be the major export item accounting for a share of 64.12 pc of the total dollar earnings. Are there plans to focus on other value added items to boost exports further?

Since the production from capture fisheries is stagnating for the last several years, we are giving a thrust to aquaculture production and shrimp is the prime candidate fetching more unit value in overseas market. However, we have plans to increase the exports of aqua cultured tilapia, sea bass, cobia, live fish, chilled fish, etc. in value added form to meet the target.

How do you see the road ahead for Indian marine products in terms of technology, foreign joint venture and foreign investment?

The road ahead for Indian marine products is open and MPEDA will encourage exporters for the production and export of value added marine products. It will welcome foreign joint ventures and investments in the seafood processing sector in accordance with the prevailing government policies.

Technology upgradation is foreseen in aquaculture production of export oriented species, and value addition in processed seafood and deep sea fishing. Joint venture and foreign investment is possible in these areas.

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