Seafood exporters have begun to feel the pressure of the tsunami. The Rs 7,000 crore (Rs 70 billion) industry that is already going through rough weather due to the anti-dumping duties imposed by the US on shrimp exports has been caught unawares by the gigantic catastrophe.
Leading exporters like Hindustan Lever, Liberty Oil Mills and Allanasons among others have begun to experience an impact on their businesses. Though it is too early to quantify the effect, they anticipate a fall in marine exports.
Hindustan Lever, the largest exporter in volume terms offers a comprehensive portfolio ranging from surimi, crabsticks to shrimps and several value-added products.
Says a HLL spokesperson, "The devastation caused by the tsunami has indeed impacted the catch in the South. This certainly has implications for exports of finished products in the immediate term."
In 2003, HLL's marine products exports turnover was Rs 276 crore (Rs 2.76 billion). HLL exports to North America, several countries in Europe, Japan, China, and South East Asia. HLL's manufacturing base is spread across the Indian peninsular coastline.
According to the Abraham Tharakan, president of the Kochi-based Seafood Exporters Association of India, "The affected areas of Nagapattinam, Thiruvananthapuram and Kanyakumari accounts for about 10-15 per cent of the shrimp catch, while 30 per cent of the total exports of the low value squid and cuttlefish comes from here."
Tharakan added that last year, there had been a sharp drop in the overall catch. In addition, with the tsunami hitting the region, fishermen are afraid to venture into sea.
Reiterating the same, an executive from Allanasons, exporter of agricultural and processed foods, "There is already a 51 per cent shortage in the marine arrivals in the last two weeks, and because of fear there is roughly a 10 per cent decline in the fishing boats going into the sea. This shortage is sure to impact the prices." Allanasons main export markets are Middle East and Europe.
He added that only after the total effect has been assessed, will the whole picture unfold. Seafood exports accounted for Rs 150 crore (Rs 1.50 billion) of the company's total turnover last year.
According to a company executive from Liberty Oil Mills, the largest exporter in value terms, which accrues Rs 800 crore (Rs 8 billion) worth of business through its aquaculture, has also begun to face a shortage in arrival of material for processing, and expects it to affect the business if the situation continues.
India's marine exports amounted to $1.4 billion last year, of which 80 per cent was of shrimps. US is the second largest buyer of Indian shrimp after Japan.