Kochi: Frustrated by the rejection of shrimp consignments to the European Union (EU) following the detection of antibiotic residues, Indian exporters are demanding stricter testing at local aquaculture farms. The UK destroyed a consignment from India last month after detecting residues of potentially harmful antibiotics used to treat the shrimp.
In a double blow for exporters, demand, meanwhile, is increasing for low-priced white shrimp, or vannamei, that’s not farmed in India. That has brought down both demand for India’s tiger shrimp, and its price.
Shrimp exports accounted for 60% of Indian’s marine exports worth Rs7,570 crore in fiscal 2007-08. The EU had a share of around 38%.
Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI) secretary-general Elias Sait says though the number of rejections of consignments to the EU is as low as 10 so far this calendar year, down from 45 in 2007, the continued use of antibiotics such as chloramphenicol or nitrofuran at aquaculture farms has aroused concern.
Changed preferences: Exporters say inflation is forcing people to go for the white variety, which is much cheaper than black tiger shrimp.
According to Sait, chloramphenicol could cause anaemia in susceptible individuals and nitrofuran could damage the genes, leading to cancer.
Exporters took up the issue with the government trade promotion body, the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), this week and the authority has promised to set up more testing facilities at farms. Two years ago, when several Indian consignment were rejected in the EU, MPEDA had taken steps to test the shrimp at farms to ensure that only quality material went to processing centres.
Whenever antibiotic residues are detected in shrimp, the EU puts out an alert, blacklisting the exporter. Member-countries then stop trading with the exporter, and getting out of the blacklist is a cumbersome process, says Sait.
Exporters are also finding it difficult to sell black tiger shrimp because of a global shift towards the white variety. “Rising inflation across the globe is forcing people to go for vannamei, which is much cheaper compared with black tiger shrimp,” says K.S. Choudhry, director of Apex Exports Ltd in Andhra Pradesh.
While the price of 1kg of vannamei is around Rs180, the small-sized black tiger costs Rs220-230. The vannamei yield from 1ha is around 20 tonnes, five times more than the yield of black tiger, Choudhry says. The cost of production of vannamei is only one-third that of black tiger.
The government last year accepted, in principle, the induction of this exotic variety and exporters were expecting guidelines on vannamei cultivation by January, after a study by a risk analysis committee. But the guidelines have not yet been framed and the season for shrimp farming has already begun.
“It is important for the industry to produce according to the taste of consumers. Six months after the government promised to issue the guidelines for introduction of vannamei, very little has been done,” Choudhry says.