The Hindu , 12 June 2006

Bid to upgrade quality helps increase seafood exports

KOCHI: One of the achievements of the Indian seafood industry during last financial year was the quality upgradation it could achieve to improve its business in European Union (E.U.) countries.

The E.U. continued to be a major market for Indian seafood during last financial year as during 2004-05. The E.U. accounted for 29 per cent of the Indian seafood exports. The total value of exports crossed the $1.5 million mark for the first time last fiscal. The U.S. accounted for 23 per cent of the seafood exports.

The increase in export of seafood to E.U. destinations is significant because exports to the U.S. had gone up only marginally and to Japan and South-East Asian countries declined.

There are 157 seafood processing units and 19 frozen cold storages in the country which are approved for exports to the E.U. As a result, India has generally been successful in crossing stiff barriers such as stringent maximum residue level for antibiotic and heavy metals.

The Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), in its review of the performance of the seafood industry during last fiscal, has pointed out that the Authority, with strong support from the Union Ministry of Commerce, had strengthened the country's capabilities for testing antibiotic residue. Eleven major maritime centres in the country have the capability, the report said.

Besides, the HACCP cell formed by the MPEDA has been providing training to seafood processors and a National Residue Control Programme is being implemented by the Authority to comply with the E.U. stipulations.

Samples of shrimp, freshwater fish, water and feed are collected from farmers, seafood processing plants and feed mills all over the country for analysis at the Authority's Kochi, Nellore and Bhimavaram laboratories. These laboratories check for pesticide residues, heavy metals, stillborns, steroids, anthelmentics, dyes, etc. The MPEDA has also been providing financial assistance to seafood processing plants for construction of captive or independent pre-processing facilities and to acquire quick-testing kits. The MPEDA has also been giving up to 50 per cent subsidy for hygienic pre-processing centres.