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Indian Exporters Struggle with Export Requirements

INDIA - Failing to pass Chinese quality inspection tests and not registering fishing fleets is leaving Indian seafood exporters out of pocket, writes Charlotte Johnston, TheFishSite editor.

India has failed to pass Chinese quality inspection tests for seafood, which will leave exporters from Gujarat and Maharashtra at a severe disadvantage.

China announced last week that it would stop imports of Indian seafood from 1 June 2012. China will allow seafood consignments from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) approved countries only. It published a list of 27 countries that have met the certification standards. Of these, seven - Viet Nam, Thailand, Pakistan, Japan, Philippines, Myanmar and South Korea - are from the Asian region.

Ten nations from Europe, seven from the American Continent and Australia and New Zealand are also included in the list of approved countries.

The impact of this decision on Indian seafood exporters could be devastating. Last year, China was the largest market for Indian seafood exports, with 159,000 tonnes exported in 2011, accounting for over 20 per cent of total seafood exports.

In value terms exports to the Chinese market accounted for 15 per cent of the country's total export earnings. Of these exports, Gujarat accounted for 71,000 tonnes, as much of the seafood processing is carried out here.

Director of Razban Seafood, Rajarshi Banerjee said that he and other seafood companies are looking to take up the issue with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Commerce.

Last month, the EU announced that it was tightening controls on Indian seafood imports. The Export Inspection Agency (EIA) stated that it will not give health certificates and Q certificates to exporters unless the product is sourced from fishing boats and landing centres registered with the agency.

Whilst exports are still leaving India to the EU, they are operating on certificates issued prior to the cut-off date of 15 March 2012. The EIA said that from a fleet of over 60,000 boats, not a single one was registered with the agency. It was also noted that 48 major fishing harbours and numerous fish landing centres were not registered.

India's total seafood exports during 2011 were 621,577 tonnes, with the EU, US and Japan importing high value products.

There are estimations that India's seafood exports will nearly double in value over the next few years. In 2010-2011 total seafood exports were valued US$2.84 billion, by 2014 this is expected to have reached US$4.7 billion, with growing demand being the main driver.

Charlotte Johnson

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