Kochi: Indian seafood exporters are looking at the possibility of joining Thailand and other members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) to petition the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the latest decision of Australia to implement new quarantine regulations that will prevent shipments of raw shrimp.
India is not a major shrimp supplier to Australia, which gets only around 3% of
India’s seafood exports that is worth $1.8 billion (Rs7,398 crore). But Australia is an upcoming potential market, says Elias Sait, secretary general of the trade body Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI). No decision has been taken so far regarding the partnership with Thailand and other Asean nations such as China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines in moving the WTO against what Thailand has termed as a non-tariff barrier aimed at protecting Australia’s $51 million local industry from the $2 billion import industry. Members of the association have been apprised of the matter.
Troubled waters: As per the new quarantine norms, import of raw shrimp to Australia from countries that are known to have the species with diseases will be banned from September end.
As per the new quarantine norms, import of raw shrimp from countries known to have shrimp with diseases will be banned from September end. The Thai industry had held discussions last week with the Australian authorities who said that besides the import ban, there would be additional environment safety tests for shrimp cutlets and shrimp meat. They said the decision was “science-based and WTO-compliant.”
Preliminary results of a survey of seafood imports conducted by the Australian quarantine and inspection service showed that 31% of a sample of shrimp, fish, crabs and eels from Asia contained low levels of antibiotics and/or antimicrobial agents.
The residue was not desirable, but posed no direct risk to human health, the Thai authorities said.
Thai authorities said in the wake of the WTO planning to revise its guidelines on transferable diseases, to specifically exclude shrimp sold for human consumption from the so-called “disease-risk pathway”, adding that there was a genuine case for Asean members to come together as a team.
Sait said the proposed ban was only on raw shrimp and not highly processed and value-added shrimp. India was yet to get into value-added shrimp in a big way, he added.
With the US imposing anti-dumping duties on Indian shrimp, along with supplies from China, Vietnam, Thailand and Brazil, the industry here was being forced to look at new markets. While the European market was growing and Japan almost steady, trade analysts in India said they see Australia as a major market waiting to be tapped.
Industrialists said the association would have to consider joining Thailand because India had already moved the WTO on the issue of customs bonds—a form of cash guarantee being collected over and above the anti-dumping duty as a protection against any further rise in duty. They pointed to a successful case against Australia by Canada before the WTO in 2000 against curbs on salmon import. With Asean members set to move the WTO, India should join them, a section of the industry says.