KOCHI: Restrictions imposed by China on sale of wild animals and seafood following the coronavirus outbreak, believed to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan, have hit the fisheries sector hard in Kerala.
India’s total fish exports amount to nearly Rs. 47,500 crore per year. After the US, China, Japan and Spain are the three major seafood importers from India. And Kerala is the major exporter of shrimps and crabs to countries China. In 2019, seafood worth more than Rs.7000 crore was exported to China.
For Kerala fisheries, the coronavirus hit is coming straight off the back of the US ban on shrimps from countries where fishing vessels and gears are not fitted with turtle excluder devices to protect sea turtles.
“China is one of the biggest sea food exporters in the world and a competitor to India. However, they import both raw seafood and processed fisheries products from India. Raw seafood is used for domestic consumption while premium varieties are exported to countries like the US after reprocessing and value addition. In fact, the coronavirus scare would have been a good opportunity for India as many countries would temporarily stop importing from China. However, the Union government and the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) have failed in utilising the opportunity through effective measures,” said Charles George, state president of the Kerala Malsyathozhilali Aikyavedi.
Due to restrictions on export to China, crabs, normally priced at Rs.1200-1500 per kg, are being sold at Rs.250-300 per kg in the domestic markets.
“Seafood processing units and exporters in Kerala have been asked to slow down shipments. Normally, we used to ship several consignments to China during the Chinese New Year period. However, this year, no shipment could be made,” said V. Visakhan, seafood processing unit owner in Aroor, Alappuzha....