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KARACHI: Pakistan’s seafood export hits the highest mark of $496 million in 2022-23 because of the rupee depreciation, despite over-fishing and global slowdown, exporters said on Tuesday.
Market players called the historic seafood export a big achievement in the face its over-exploitation, global market slowdown, fall in main commodities prices and drop in average unit value.
Pakistan last made the record seafood export to the tune of $451 million in the fiscal year 2017-18, as exporters and experts believe the country can hit $1 billion mark if the world’s largest markets end their restrictions completely.
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“The main reason for achieving this high level of export is the depreciation of Pakistan’s rupee against the US Dollar,” Vice Chairman, Pakistan Fisheries Exporter Association (Pakfea), Saeed Farid said.
He said the rupee devaluation has helped the exporters trading in the seafood items that previously could not be exported due to their high prices on the local market.
“The seafood processing industry has aligned to international demand after Covid-19 which created a glut on the international seafood market,” he said.
Now, he said, with the global market resumption, the country’s exporters are able to export their niche fisheries varieties. Pakistan exported cuttlefish, squid, octopus, ivory shell and other shellfish to a number of non-traditional fisheries markets, he said.
He, however, showed concerns over the US ban on the country’s shrimp export because of the non-compliance with Turtle Excluder Device (TED) regulations.
“The seafood export could be much higher if the US ban on shrimp trade did not exist, which pulled down the country’s exact seafood industry potential,” he said.
The US ban is now running into its sixth consecutive year, he said and showed worries that the concerned authorities seem indifferent to invite the next mission of the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) to review the restriction.
Similarly, he said, the EU also carries a ban on the country’s seafood export, which it had imposed in 2007. A partial ban was lifted on an ad-hoc basis with a permission only to three companies to export seafood to the EU, Farid said.
India’s 500 and Iran’s 104 companies export seafood to the EU but Pakistan is faced with a ban even after 16 years, he said, adding even the authorities are unwilling to negotiate with the European Union to remove the restriction fully.
“There are over 300 seafood processing establishments under the Pakistan Fish Inspection and Quality Control Act 1997 and if these plants are allowed to export their fish products, export can even reach a level of about $1 billion,” he said.
The Vice Chairman Pakfea felicitated fishermen, fish processors and other stakeholders on achieving the historic export growth for the country’s seafood sector.
“There is a serious shortage of raw materials for the seafood processing plants,” despite a record seafood export growth, former Chairman (Pakfea), Faisal Iftikhar said.
He appreciates the stakeholders for the seafood export growth despite a fall in the average unit price (AUP) to a level of 10.61 percent, compelling the exporters to trade in low-value products.
He said that the country’s commercially valued seafood varieties can be produced only with aquaculture of highly appealing fisheries and shrimp farming in inland waters and along the coasts.
“Fisheries Development Board has already demonstrated viable shrimp farming in Pakistan,” he said and urged the private sector to invest in shrimp and fish farming.
Former Director General, Marine Fisheries Department, Muhammad Moazzam Khan called the seafood historic export to $496 million extremely important, despite long running challenges of over-fishing and declining catch landings. “The fish processing industry has wisely shifted to the export of shellfish including squids, cuttlefish, octopuses, and shells such as clams, whelks, ivory shells and razor clams, which are providing a boost to seafood exports,” he lauded.
About 200 metric tons of tuna worth $200 million are annually transported to Iran through traditional channels that are not the part of the country’s total seafood export, nor earnings.
“There is a need that this traditional trade may be harmonized with national laws which will increase Pakistan’s export value to about $700 million to $1 billion,” he said.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023s