India: A seafood powerhouse?

India’s Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) plans to open an office in China, according to a senior official at the organization.

An office in China will add to bureaus in Brussels and Tokyo, as India seeks to grow market share for its shrimp in particular, according to MPEDA director Ponnusamy Mohanasundaram. He said India, the world’s No. 2 farmed seafood producer, is attractive to buyers from China due to lower production costs.

“Labor in India remains 20 percent cheaper than in China” explained Mohanasundaram. He said production costs for key Indian products — black tiger and vannamei shrimp — are also “very low.”

“Disease problems in Vietnam and Indonesia have allowed India take market share in the EU and U.S., which are key for us,” he added. And, he explained, India’s exporters are now especially keen to secure buyers in China, which will take 10 percent of Indian exports in 2011 in volume terms. “Purchasing power has increased tremendously” in China, explained Mohanasundaram.  

India’s overall seafood exports jumped from USD 1.2 billion in 2001-02 to USD 2.1 billion in 2009-10. Mohanasundaram said China “will be big” for India’s seafood industry, which shipped USD 2.7 billion in 2010 and targets USD 4 billion for 2011.

Item-wise, frozen shrimp accounts for 41 percent of total Indian seafood exports, with frozen fish at 20 percent, the No. 2 category in value terms. India expects to ship 10 million metric tons of frozen shrimp globally in 2011. Frozen cuttlefish and squid placed third and fourth. The country’s top three markets based on volume are the EU (39 percent), the United States (20 percent) and Japan (15 percent).

Mohanasundaram said = his organization will continue to focus on increasing export volumes of vannamei shrimp as well as ribbonfish, pomfret and cuttlefish. India remains focused on primary products but will ramp up the processing business over time, noted Mohanasundaram. He pointed to the country’s proven record on quality — India has 300 plants which are certified to EU standards.

Domestically, consumption is up in India alongside local purchasing power. “Indians prefer fresh product, they’re traditionally used to it,” said Mohanasundaram. The recent spread of supermarkets and cold-chain logistics across the country’s regions has spurred a shift from red to white meat, he said.

Set up in 1972, MPEDA seeks to make India a top seafood exporter by improving processing, quality control and marketing. Current priorities are sustainability and pushing aquaculture and processing as well as increasing tuna output. Mohanasundaram said India will pursue organic and cluster aquaculture. The organization is working with Swiss government agencies to improve certification of its organic seafood products.


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