The seafood sector is headed for one of the best years in recent times, with record production of cultured shrimp and exports, notwithstanding the rampant diseases in farms and logistic hiccups.
Production of farmed shrimp, the mainstay of marine products export from India, surpassed 9 lakh tonnes in calendar year 2021, said Ravi Kumar Yellanki, president of All India Shrimp Hatcheries Association.
“After a record output of 3.28 lakh tonnes in the first half of the year, we were expecting a lower production in the second half because of diseases. But higher demand from the United States and better prices saw production zoom in the second half in Andhra Pradesh. Andhra accounts for around 70 percent of the cultured shrimp output in the country,’’ Yellanki said.
The contribution from other coastal states has been minimal. The previous best production was 8 lakh tonnes in 2019.
V Balasubramaniam, secretary of Prawn Farmers Federation of India, felt that such a high figure is not possible when diseases ravage shrimp farms and the quality of the imported brood stock is not up to the mark.
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“We think production should be around 7.25 lakh tonnes. The farmers are forced to harvest smaller size shrimps because of the diseases,’’ he said.
COVID-19 creates demand for Indian shrimps
However, COVID-19 helped expand the market for Indian shrimps in the US. This is one of the important reasons for the increase in output in farms, despite problems. Balasubramaniam said imports to the US have gone up by 50 percent this year and prices are up by Rs 150 per kg from the previous year.
“During the pandemic, people in the US continued consuming shrimps at home as restaurants were closed. Value-added, ready-to-cook products had great demand. Now, with restaurants open, demand has risen further,’’ Yellanki pointed out.
Nekkanti Sea Foods, one of the major shrimp exporters, is expecting a 50 percent increase in turnover for the current year.
“It is the highest growth since our inception 35 years ago. We anticipate a turnover of around Rs 2,250 crore in FY22,’’ said M Nagesh, finance director of the company.
The company had ramped up capacity in the last few years and is now capable of catering to the increasing demand in the US.
“Retail sales are phenomenally high, with most outlets stocking for 3-4 months. The belief that shrimps are good to consume during the pandemic as they provide a protein-rich diet helped boost sales,’’ said Nagesh.
Other consuming countries like China and those in the European Union (EU) continue to buy Indian shrimps but to a lesser degree. The export to China comprises mostly shrimps without value-addition. While a part of it goes for local consumption, the rest is re-exported to other countries like Vietnam and Thailand.The government’s target for the current year is $7.8 billion. The shipments have already reached $6.6 billion by January. Exporters reckon that it will definitely touch $7 billion by the end of FY22, but are not sure whether it will hit the target.