Pakistan’s fish and fish preparations exports have shown a growth of 26 per cent in quantity and 23pc in value during 5MFY23 as efforts by the exporters to find new markets with product diversification, rupee devaluation against the dollar and high value of some species are finally paying off.
Industry sources say that exporters have made serious efforts to enhance exports without any support from the government.
Exporters shipped 71,659 tonnes ($186 million) during 5MFY23 compared to 56,731 tonnes ($150m) in the same fiscal period.
“Some species like squids, cuttlefish and ribbon fish have fetched better prices in the world markets,” Vice Chairman of Pakistan Fisheries Exporters Association (PFEA), Mian Saeed Farid said.
China had imposed a sanction on imports of jellyfish from Pakistan during FY22, but from July 2022 onwards, it had been lifted, which is also contributing to improving exports. Pakistan’s fishery product exports heavily rely on China which enjoys over 50pc share of the country’s total fish exports.
By diversifying products and markets, Pakistan’s seafood exports have witnessed modest growth this year
Like every year, China remains closed for holidays from January 15 to February 15. “We will complete fish shipments to China by January 10, 2023, to meet holiday season demand as shipments usually take one month to reach China,” Mr Farid said.
Recently, another Pakistani fish processing plant, Seagreen Enterprises (Pvt) Limited, has joined the European Commission (EC) list for fishery exports. This is the third company from Pakistan listed in the EC list. The EC lifted a six-year ban on Pakistan in 2013 and granted permission to two companies — Akhlaq Enterprise and A.G. Fisheries — to export fishery products to European countries.
EC had placed a ban on seafood export from Pakistan in 2007 due to shortcomings noted by the inspection mission of the EC during their visit to Pakistan. Mr Farid said, “if eight to 10 more fish processing plants get permission to export, then the country’s share of fish to European countries will increase, which is currently around 10pc.”
He said only three exporters were allowed to export to the United Kingdom. After the UK’s exit from the EU, the Marine Fisheries Department (MFD) needs to hold discussions with the UK government to allow more exporters to tap the UK market individually. Pakistan has two fish exporting seasons — one from September to December 15 and the second from February 15 to June 15.
When asked if fish exports would remain brisk in coming months, he said the first half of FY23 had been promising, but it would be hard to say about the next season as much would depend on world prices and the losing value of the rupee against the dollar. Besides, most fishermen usually avoid catching fish in winter from December 15 to February 15.
From mid-September till the end of winter, consumers usually witness a steep rise in fish prices in the local markets due to high demand. However, Mr Farid said the local prices had nothing to do with the higher export volumes.
Technical Advisor World Wide Fund, Pakistan, and ex-director general Marine Fisheries Department (MFD), Muhammad Moazzam Khan, said that seafood exports from Pakistan are increasing despite a major decrease in marine fish landings. In 1999, total marine production was 477,397 tonnes which reduced to 313,141 tonnes in 2021, down by 34pc over 23 years.
Although a decrease in landings of important seafood commodities was noticed in the last 20 years, he said that the exports continued to soar mainly due to the diversification of the exportable commodities from Pakistan. In 1999, shrimp, lobsters and ribbonfish were the main exporting commodities despite the decrease in their landings.
He said the exporters have found new products and new markets for the commodities. Previously, only large cuttlefish (Pharaoh cuttlefish) were exported but now four additional species of cuttlefish are being exported, thus generating additional revenue.
He said previously, jellyfish were not harvested and exported, but currently about 3,000 tonnes were exported. Stingrays were dried and used for fish meal production, but about 10,000 tonnes of Stingray wings are being exported to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
In addition, large quantities of fish meal are exported to China for the aquaculture industry. Many modern fish meal plants have been established, producing high-quality fish meal for export and earning good returns. Export of shellfish such as whelks, clams and razor clams are now considered important seafood commodities which are exported in live, frozen and chilled forms earning additional foreign exchange in Pakistan, Mr Khan said.
He said a rise in exports in the last five months is mainly due to the adjustment of the industry to the post-Covid-19 situation. A major part of the consignment stuck up in various ports, mainly in China, has been released because of a change in Chinese policy for global seafood imports.
He said Pakistani exporters have adjusted their marketing strategy to new markets and products that helped improve exports amid some bottlenecks in export requirements and conditions from Pakistan.
However, the Food and Agriculture Organisation/Fisheries Appraisal Report of 2016 warned that seafood resources are seriously dwindling, fearing the collapse of some of the important fisheries of Pakistan and suggested a major reduction (more than 50pc) in fishing fleet size.
Despite this warning, the fishing fleet in both Sindh and Balochistan is still increasing rapidly. This is an alarming situation, and a major reduction in landings of lucrative species is expected, which may have serious bearings on export.
There is an emergent need for the fish processing and export industry to proactively diversify their export, search for new markets and also enhance the export of value-added and ethnic seafood products from Pakistan. It is encouraging that the export of ethnic products to the US has already started from October 2022, which is an important achievement of the seafood processing industry of Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, December 26th, 2022 Pvt. Ltd. ( for Dawn.
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