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Pakistan’s seafood traders have welcomed the historic high exports of $469 million in financial year 2022-23 despite over-fishing, a fall in commodity prices, decline in unit value, and the global slowdown in the industry.
The last time Pakistan’s seafood exports came close to this figure was in FY 2017-18 when they reached $451 million, but the sector believes that if restrictions in foreign markets are lifted, Pakistan can easily approach $1 billion in exports.
“The main reason for achieving this high level of export is the depreciation of Pakistan’s rupee against the US Dollar,” stated Saeed Farid, Vice Chairman Pakistan Fisheries Exporter Association (PAKFEA).
He noted that the higher costs of certain seafood goods in the domestic market were a constraint on exports, but that the currency depreciation has benefited.
“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,” regretted Farid. The United States has imposed a ban on Pakistan for non-compliance with Turtle Excluder Device (TED) regulations and the authorities have not followed up with US Food and Drug Administration as the ban as entered into sixth year.
Farid pointed out that European Union has also imposed a ban on the country since 2007 which was only partially lifted to allow three companies while India’s 500 and Iran’s 104 companies export seafood to European Union.
“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, exports can even reach the level of about $1 billion,” added Farid.
He lauded the historical export numbers in the face of challenges but also pointed that nearly 200 tons of tuna of $200 million in market value are being transported to Iran through informal channels and if formalized, it can take Pakistan’s seafood exports even higher.
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