Kochi: Seafood exporters are setting up a common processing centre at Ambalappuzha in coastal Kerala, the first of its kind in the country aimed at raising sanitary benchmarks to global standards.
The Rs3.06 crore project is expected to begin functioning by August and will be established jointly by industry lobby group Seafood Exporters Association of India, or SEAI, and trade promotion body Marine Products Export Development Authority, or MPEDA.
The centre will involve at least 135 small pre-processing centres, which together account for foreign exchange earnings of Rs1,380 crore a year, said SEAI secretary Sandu Joseph. The foundation stone for the centre was laid on Sunday.
The move to raise the quality of the processed seafood is expected to burnish foreign exchange earnings, as well as improve living standards of the roughly 15,000 people who make a living from work such as peeling shrimp. These workers work about 100 days a year on average.
The centre will allow for three shifts a day, with 500 workers to a shift. Joseph estimated that the centre will bring in benefits of an additional Rs30 crore to the workforce. Workers currently make about Rs10 crore annually from peeling shrimp.
Peeling sheds are now privately owned, with the majority working out of homes that are largely not monitored for hygiene or quality standards. Last year, a team from the European Union, a large shrimp importer, visited some of these sites as part of an annual inspection and was dissatisfied with the prevailing conditions, Joseph said.
Earlier attempts by MPEDA to offer financial assistance to shed owners to upgrade their facilities did not succeed as most did not even have sufficient land to meet basic norms. In fact, MPEDA recognizes only seven of the units, a certification it gives if minimum standards are met.
The proposed processing centre in Ambalappuzha will have common facilities meeting international benchmarks, such as an ice plant, machinery for effluent and water treatment, a chilling room and a testing laboratory.
SEAI, which will manage the centre, will contribute Rs35 lakh, MPEDA will contribute Rs25 lakh and the remaining Rs2.46 crore will be funded through Assistance to States for Infrastructure Development of Exports, a government agency.