Russia-Ukraine War: Geopolitical Tensions Do Not Have Any Impact On Indian Fish Imports The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has adversely impacted several industries across the globe, and the fisheries sector is no exception. The prevalent tussle, however, has not had any major impact on the fisheries industry in India

By Mathew Joseph

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The Indian fisheries sector has witnessed dramatic growth in recent years, making India one of the largest producers of fish and fish products in the world. Currently, India is the third-largest fish-producing country in the world and accounts for 7.96 per cent of global production.

According to the ministry of fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying, government of India, "The fisheries sector has been recognized as the 'Sunrise Sector' and has demonstrated an outstanding double-digit average annual growth of 10.87 per cent since 2014-15."

In FY21, the total fish production in India was around 14.73 million tonne (MT) with a contribution of 11.25 MT from the inland sector and 3.48 MT from the marine sector. Statistically, India's per capita consumption of fish and meat products stands around 4-7 kilograms per annum, while the global numbers are 20 kg per annum.

Indian palette prefers local varieties

In recent years, there's been an increased awareness in people about the benefits of consuming fresh fish and seafood, and more people are adopting nutrition-rich diets that are further leading to the rapid growth of the industry. Among other factors, an increase in income, conscious decisions to consume nutritious meals, and easy accessibility to fish that is 100 per cent fresh, zero chemicals, and affordable have led to more consumers leaning toward the consumption of fish and seafood.

However, Indian consumers, quintessentially, have favored homegrown and locally available fish produce, and often turn to such varieties for daily consumption. The three Indian major carp species—Catla, Rohu, and Mrigal—together contribute a lion's share in the fish production industry in India. As a result of the high demand for local varieties of fish combined with a surge in production, India has not borne the brunt of the ongoing war, which has also not affected the prices of the fish.

As for daily consumption, the B2C industry that comprises online meat players and other sellers, witnesses the demand for local breeds of fish including freshwater fish and marine fish. The B2B industry, however, which consists of hotels and restaurants often turns to fish that is imported from international markets, especially Basa from Vietnam. Other Indian fish imports are Hilsa from Bangladesh and Atlantic Salmon from Norway.

It is key to understand that there is no specific variety of fish that hails from the European Union and has demand locally for daily consumption. In true essence, India does not depend on the EU for the supply of freshwater fish or marine water fish that is integral for our daily consumption.

The EU is among the top four regions that imports fish, followed by the US, China, and Japan.

The export industry takes a hit

At the same time, the export industry is adversely impacted due to the war. In recent years, as a result of the combined efforts of the Marine Products Export Development Authority and several exporters, the Indian seafood sector has successfully penetrated the market in Russia and many neighboring countries such as Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, and other prominent countries. Russia depends on India for shrimp, squid, and cuttlefish, among other varieties for its needs. However, the current scenario is not promising for the export industry. Hundreds of crores worth of fish and seafood have been stuck in transit for many months due to the ongoing war.

Another challenge faced by the Indian export industry is cross-border payments. More than $400 million is in the limbo through Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT), a cross-border payment method that enables financial transactions between fish traders and exporters across the globe. Exporters are deeply impacted, as a result.

The Way Forward

Sustainable and responsible development of the fisheries sector will lead to the much-awaited Blue Revolution. If the critical gaps in the sector are addressed by promoting the adoption of technologies, improving post-harvest infrastructure and management, executing dedicated efforts to create a cold chain and chiller facilities for fishermen at the markets, supporting deep-sea fishing, encouraging markets and marketing infrastructure, the industry will witness rapid growth.

It is imperative that policymakers and stakeholders of the fisheries sector focus attention on resolving the challenges faced by the industry and these solutions can be pivotal in steering the growth of the industry.

Mathew Joseph

COO, FreshToHome

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