Eastern Fish’s Eric Bloom reflects on origins of India’s shrimp dominance

A Nekkanti shrimp plant in India.

Eric Bloom, the president of Teaneck, New Jersey, U.S.A.-based Eastern Fish Co., says he doesn’t remember the details of the initial meeting with Nekkanti Sea Foods Managing Director Venkat Nekkanti in 2003, but he acknowledges – as Nekkanti claims – that it could have been as short as 15 minutes.

I'm going to say this: he has a better memory of it than I do,” Bloom told SeafoodSource. “From that that particular first meeting, unfortunately, I can't give a lot of color. I would have guessed if he flew all the way in from India, would have given him more than 15 minutes. But what I remember about it was that we left the meeting with a very good feeling.”

At the time, India ranked fourth in volume of shrimp it exported to the U.S. By 2014, a decade later, India was number one, a position it has retained for nine straight years.

Eastern Fish, a major importer of shrimp to the U.S., did not have many business connections in India at the time. But as part of an aggressive growth strategy, the company was looking to new markets and building connections with new suppliers. But In 2004, the U.S. instituted a 10 percent duty on all Indian shrimp imports, making India virtually impossible for Eastern to do business with, Bloom said.

“We didn’t really have a presence in India at all until right about then. We had plans to grow the business, we have a good business plan, and we had a large-scale customer interested [in sourcing from India]. And we were talking with Nekkanti about that,” Bloom said. “But the U.S. move on anti-dumping put a monkey wrench in it. I don't believe there's any ever dumping going on – they were just creating a fair market for an item people want to eat in large volumes. But when the U.S. got shut down for them, it became a real problem for them.”

Nonetheless, the relationship between Eastern Fish and Nekkanti Sea Foods continued to bud, Bloom said.

“They were serious about wanting to do business. We built mutual trust, and that's the basis of any relationship right and Venkat, coming in from a younger generation, had different ideas, bigger ideas, and obviously wanted to grow his company and was aggressive at wanting to establish and maintain a market,” Bloom said. “He wanted to take on China, which at that time, was one of the largest shrimp exporters to the U.S. Venkat said he wanted to grow with us. The reputation of the company created by his father was there – he had established a really good company, with good principles – and that's what drew us in and made us ask, ‘How do we stay together through this?’”

Bloom said his trust in Nekkanti grew following a trial with a European client.

“I had a nice-sized European customer and I thought that Nekkanti’s product would really work well there. I thought Nekkanti would be a good place to incorporate them and as things worked out, they were extremely happy with their product,”

Eastern Fish maintained a small portion of business with Nekkanti Sea Foods through subsequent years. But when the U.S. lowered its India anti-dumping duty in 2007, it ...

Photo courtesy of Nekkanti Sea Foods

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