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US curbs paralyse Indian seafood exports

George Iype in Kochi | February 06, 2004 16:28 IST

The Indian seafood exports have plunged because of an anti-dumping case filed by an eight-state American alliance called the Southern Shrimp Alliance and due to the stiff exporting rules and quality control measures imposed by the United States.

According to the Seafood Exporters' Association, seafood exports from India in the April-September period in 2003 came down to 136,074 tonnes compared to the 173,167 tonnes during the same period in 2002.

The association officials, who are compiling the latest data of exports, said that the anti-dumping suit in the US has considerably hit the Indian seafood exports.

"We are witnessing a dip in the exports to the US these days because of the anti-dumping case. The US has been one of our biggest seafood exporting markets. We fear the anti-dumping charges would considerably damage our business," association president Abraham Tharakan said.

Annual shrimp imports by the US are estimated to be over $3 billion and India exported shrimp worth $360 million last year.

In June last year, the Southern Shrimp Alliance led by Louisiana state demanded punitive anti-dumping duty ranging from 40 per cent to 200 per cent on shrimp imports from India and elsewhere.

The alliance alleged that export of shrimp from these countries to the US have been well below 'fair value' causing 'injury' to the US industry.

Saying that they are being driven out of business by cheap imports as dockside prices for domestic shrimp plummet, the American shrimpers have targeted the main shrimp exporters to the US: China, India, Thailand, Ecuador, Vietnam, Brazil and Mexico.

Last week, the Indian Association filed a petition before the US International Trade Commission arguing the Indian seafood varieties were different from the shrimp produced in the United States and, therefore, posed no threat to the US.

But Tharakan said that since the case has begun, exporters from the US have not been keen to buy seafood products from India.

Indian exporters have mobilized around $1.5 million to fight the case in the US. It has also roped in Garvey Schubert Barer, a reputed law firm in the US, to fight the anti-dumping charges.

The Indian government is supporting the seafood exporters fight the case in the US.

According to Jose Cyriac, chairman of the Marine Products Export Development Authority, India's apex government body on marine products, "India has a strong case because we have been mainly exporting tiger shrimps that are not found in the US."

The Indian government fears that the anti-dumping move by the US will badly affect the Indian seafood processing industry as it has generated some one million jobs.

India's marine export industry is a huge Rs 6,790-crore (Rs 67.90 billion) business.

Exporters like Tharakan fear that tougher rules from the US and European nations will considerably affect the Indian marine food industry in the months to come.

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