The seafood and processed fish industry in Odisha is likely to get a major boost after rolling out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from July 1. Earlier 12.5% tax was levied on processed fish, which has brought down to 5% under GST. Odisha is the 9th largest producer of fish and the 4th largest producer of shrimp in the country. "The fish industry in domestic market will certainly get a boost. For fresh fish and shrimp there will be no tax while for processed fish and shrimp only 5% tax will be levied instead of Value Added Tax (VAT) of 12.5%. It will certainly attract more players to the industry with better opportunities. The prices of the processed fish will also reduce," said Tara Patnaik, chairman of Falcon Marine Exports, one of the leading seafood exporters of the state.
The seafood exporters, however, said they are a bit confused over the tax provision and impact of GST on export. "Things are not clear for exporters yet. We are in a confused state. Once the tax will be imposed then we could know what it is happening," said Manoranjan Patra, another seafood exporter. Besides, there is resentment over refundable five percent tax on exports among the exporter community.
"Though this is refundable, it would be an extra investment for exporters," said Jay Prakash Mishra, another seafood exporter. The new tax regime has invoked mixed response from fishing industry, fishermen and seafood exporters. "Now we will pay only five percent GST for which we are happy. But the prices of dry-fish and fishing- vessels will cost more due to imposition of five percent tax," said Narayan Haldar, president of Odisha Mashyajibi Forum.
Odisha produces huge quantity of fresh water fish such as Rohu, Catla, Mrigal and other minor carps and marine fish like Hilsa, Pomfrets, Mackerel, Bhekti, Khainga, Prawns and Crab. These products have high demand in the domestic market. The dry fish industry, which is mostly an unorganised sector will have to pay 5% tax if they use chemical or salt other than common salt for processing the fish. "Dry fishing units in Paradeep have been supplying dry fish to Assam, Sikkim, Nagaland and other North- East states," said Haldar.
Dry fish units in Paradip generate revenues of around Rs three to four crore per annum by preparing nearly fifteen thousand tonnes of dry fish. Around 5000 people eke out their livelihoods by making and selling dry-fish, he said. Around 23 seafood exporters of the state in this financial year exported seafood worth of around Rs 2100 crores .Seafood should be treated as agricultural produce and exempted from the GST even in domestic market. We export 30 percent seafood to USA and 30 percent to Vietnam. The rest 40 percent we exported to Russia, Japan and EU countries this year. "Frozen shrimp continued to be the major export item in the export basket in terms of quantity and value, accounting for a share of 80 percent" Rudra Prasad Hota, general secretary of The Seafood Exporters Association of India(SEAI), Odisha region.
With an aim to simplify the tax regime the state fishery department will hold brainstorming session over impact of GST on the sector. "We will soon organise meeting among the fishermen, fish traders and seafood exporters on GST to understand the new tax regime," said Umesh Mohanty, joint director ( planning and training ) fishery department.