The Central government will help the seafood sector in all possible ways to make India the number one exporter by “working together with a new vigour with all the stakeholders, including the state governments and the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Som Parkash said in Kochi on Saturday.

Addressing the 22nd India International Seafood Show here, Parkash said there was an urgent need to make India the prime producer of seafood, going up from the fourth position it was occupying now.

Acknowledging that the sector was facing a plethora of problems in achieving the production and export targets without compromising on quality and environment, he said the government was willing to address each one of them as this would contribute to the country’s overall economic development besides improving the employment opportunities. At present, the sector provides employment to about 14.5 million people.

The minister was speaking at a function where he and other dignitaries, including Kerala Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma, gave away MPEDA Awards to 60 companies and individuals for their excellent performance.

The newly instituted MPEDA Chairman’s Award for Most Responsible Exporter of the Year 2018-19 was given to Gadre Marine Products Pvt Ltd, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra. The Lifetime Achievement Award, another new initiative, went to Abraham J Tharakan, Chairman and Managing Director of Kerala’s Amalgam Group.

Som Parkash said that in view of the economic slowdown, there was need for “working very hard” for achieving various targets set by the seafood industry. “Whatever problems you have, the government is ready to address them,” he assured the delegates. He asked MPEDA to prepare and submit a memorandum, listing the sector’s requirements.

Among others who addressed the award function, held on the second day of the three-day show, were MPEDA Chairman K. S. Srinivas, Hibi Eden, Member of Parliament, Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI) National President Jagdish V Fofandi, former MPEDA Chairmen Jose Cyriac and T.K.A. Nair.

Mercykutty Amma sought liberal financial assistance from the Centre for upgradation of the fishing industry in Kerala, including for replacement of the kerosene engine by more environment- friendly engines and for expansion of inland aquaculture. Finance from the Centre was required also for implementing the state’s plan to popularize deep sea fishing, she said.

Hibi Eden said the new Department of Fisheries should work in tandem with the Union Commerce Ministry to help the sector overcome its unprecedented challenges.

In his address, Fofandi pointed out that the awards would encourage not only the winners but also all those involved in the sector to put in their best. He pleaded with the Centre to send delegations, if necessary, to all those countries where the sector was facing export issues.

He also added that the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi should take up the issue with the European Union, during his upcoming visit, for the benefit of seafood exporters. The government should also ensure that the Chinese market remained open to India, particularly in view of the fact that the neighbouring country had become a net importer, he said.

He also made a plea for a relook at policy matters relating to primary producers and exports as the sector was working in a highly competitive environment. There was need for placing the sector in the green zone, taking it from the brown zone, and upgrading the testing regime besides removal of regulations that resulted in the “overlap” of work by government agencies. Cyriac commended the stakeholders for their role in achieving exponential growth of the sector.

TKA Nair pointed out that Andhra Pradesh and a few other states had taken a march over Kerala in shrimp aquaculture and advised the producers to be extremely cautious on environmental issues. Also, profit-making enterprises had the responsibility of ensuring socio-economic development, he added.

By Manoj

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