Robust demand in the US and record production of vannamei shrimp in the first half of 2021, coupled with the introduction of pathogen-free black tiger shrimp broodstock, have raised the hopes of the Indian seafood industry in hitting the $7 billion mark in exports in FY22.
Seafood export from the country had declined by about 11 percent in FY21 to $5.96 billion from a year earlier as COVID-19 disrupted shipments. However, the last few months have seen demand in the US, India’s main market, booming and the farmers harvesting a bumper output of the vannamei shrimp that accounts for a major share of the export basket.
Centre’s export target
Despite the persisting shipping container shortage and high freight rates, the seafood industry is working towards achieving the export target set by the Centre.“We have been asked to raise exports by 31 percent to $7.8 billion in FY22 by the Ministry of Commerce. At present, the market is looking good with prices moving up. The US demand is strong, while China, the second-biggest market for India, despite the COVID protocol, has started buying more,’’ said Jagdish Fofandi, president of Seafood Exporters Association of India.
Record vannamei harvest
Aquaculture farmers have produced more vannamei this year. “There has been a record harvest of 3.28 lakh tonnes in the first six months of 2021. This is higher than even the production in the first half of 2018, which has been the best so far,’’ said Ravi Kumar Yellenki, former president of the Society of Aquaculture Professionals.
He reckons that good farm shrimp production in the second half of the year, along with a good catch from the seas, will help the industry touch the target set by the Centre, provided the logistics bottlenecks are solved fast.
Before the advent of the vannamei shrimp over a decade ago, the black tiger shrimp had dominated India’s seafood export. Its share has dropped to over 10 percent now, with the comparatively disease-resistant vannamei ruling the roost.
Specific pathogen-free (SPF) black tiger shrimp broodstock import has been permitted from two suppliers in the US and Madagascar, which may boost its share in the export.
Increase in US demand
The farmers were encouraged by the rising demand in the US, where the focus shifted to the retail market when the pandemic struck. “Now, restaurants have opened and the food-service sector seems to have bounced back with a vengeance. At the same time, people have become used to eating shrimp at home. So, the combined strength of the retail and the food service sector has raised the demand in the US,’’ said Yellenki.
India imports 90 percent of the vannamei broodstock from the US for the supply of seeds to farmers. “Its import had touched a new high of over 2.5 lakh in FY21, which has been reflected in the higher production and export of seafood in the current year,’’ said D Ramraj, president of All India Shrimp Hatcheries Association.
Industry sources said there has been a record export in June and July. “The export to the US has increased by 35-40 percent this year. And most exporters have completed their major shipments in the first few months of the fiscal,’’ said Philip Thomas, CMD of seafood exporting firm Penver Products Ltd.
Diseases in Andhra farms to hit production
But rampant diseases in the farms in Andhra Pradesh, which produce nearly 70 percent of aquaculture shrimps in the country, is expected to curtail the vannamei shrimp output in the December-January period.
“We expect lower production in the second half. Overall, we may end up with 7 lakh tonnes, higher than the output in 2020 but less than in 2019,” Yellenki said. The year 2019 saw record production of over 8 lakh tonnes of aquaculture shrimps in the country.
SPF broodstock comes to the rescue
However, this may be compensated to a great extent by the introduction of the SPF black tiger shrimp broodstock import to India.
“Earlier, as the tiger broodstock was caught from the wild, about 70 percent was vulnerable to diseases, and, hence, it was replaced by the more disease-resistant vannamei. But now, with the import of the SPF broodstock, the prevalence of diseases will be reduced in tiger shrimp,’’ said Ramraj.
Unlike vannamei, the tiger shrimp can be harvested in large sizes and hence can fetch better prices, he added.
Japan, which lifted inspection on black tiger shrimp from India last year, accounts for about 40 percent of export from the country. Apart from the US, China, which is currently dependent on Vietnam for tiger shrimp supply, is also expected to buy more from India.“This year, many farmers have taken to black tiger shrimp. In the next year, we can expect 25 percent of the farmers to shift to its cultivation,” said Philip Thomas.