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KARACHI: The government’s strict rules and overfishing left Pakistan missing out chance to hit $500 million seafood export in the just-ended fiscal year 2021-22, as the world markets demand grew in the post Covid-19 phase, exporters and experts said Wednesday.
The highest seafood export from Pakistan was made about $450 million in 2017-18. However, exporters said that the country could only export 166,267 metric tons of seafood valuing $430.66 million in 2021-22.
There was a big chance to flood the global seafood markets as appeal for fish and shrimps grew higher soon after the Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed, they said that Pakistan may reach $500 million export mark.
They said that there was a reason, which held back Pakistan from the seafood export growth last fiscal year despite a huge chance, including the government’s “unexplained” rules and restrictions.
Pakistan exports seafood mainly fish to about 45 countries of the world with China as the top market followed by Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and nations of Persian Gulf.
However, a small volume of seafood is also imported by the EU bloc, which was once a mainstay of Pakistan’s seafood export, because of a ban placed on Pakistan’s exporters in 2007 after the concerned authority failed to fulfil the requirements.
Later in 2012, the European Commission lifted the ban on an adhoc basis, allowing two processing plants to export seafood from Pakistan to the EU nations.
The European Commission Inspection Mission is expect to visit during 2022, which may lead to lifting of the ban on seafood export, an official said.
Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Ex-Director General, Marine Fisheries Department termed several reasons for the lost opportunity to drive seafood export to a new target of $500 million.
He said that China, which is the biggest importer of Pakistan’s seafood products, placed restrictions soon after the world trade and commercial markets resumed in the post pandemic period, hitting the country’s fisheries export hard.
The other reasons, which include fuel oil price hike, large fishing fleet and the continuing use of banned gears restricted Pakistan from growing seafood export.
The costlier diesel made the fishing operations financially unviable that widely scaled down fisheries catch especially species of the commercially high value, he said.
“Large fishing fleet, fishing with banned gears and massive post-harvest losses are other major reasons for limiting the export of seafood from Pakistan,” Moazzam Khan said.
Unbanning of the shrimps and fish hunt in June and July 2022 is feared to have a long lasting negative impact on the growth and export of crustaceans – species of a high commercial value on the world market, he said.
As per law, Pakistan bans hunt of fish and shrimps during June and July every year to help improve the growth of commercially important marine species across its seas. This year the ban was lifted.
A leading exporter, who requested not to be named, held Marine Fisheries Department responsible for “unnecessary” restrictions on the seafood processors, as a result, a big number of them failed to export live, chilled and value-added dried shrimps.
After a gap of two years of Covid-19 restrictions, the global markets opened business and offered a higher return on seafood items, which was missed, he added.
Showing fears, he said that the exporters will see more difficulties in years to come if official restrictions continued, besides soaring fuel oil prices, leaving the entire business chain financially unviable.
He urged that government to help provide a conducive environment to export seafood to a half billion dollars in next years, saying a historic growth could be possible if the concerned authorities unbar the restrictions.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022