Seafood exporters are pinning their hopes on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics driving up consumption in the Japanese market.
Japan is one of the world’s top seafood markets and the third largest seafood importer. However, it is a market that looks for consistent supply of quality products in all forms.
Rajarshe Banerjee, President, Seafood Exporters Association of India, West Bengal region, told BusinessLine that the Japanese market had shrunk to 40 per cent of its size compared to what it was seven years ago.
This is because of quality standards in Japan, which are much more stringent than the far more relaxed US markets. Besides, Japanese prefer Black Tiger shrimps, while Indian shrimp exports are mainly dominated by Vannamei.
Black Tiger push sought
To renew Black Tiger shrimp exports from Bengal, he urged the Marine Products Development Authority (MPEDA) to make efforts to promote the traditional Black Tiger aquaculture, which was more than 100 years old.
KS Srinivas, Chairman, MPEDA, said that the Japanese market is expected to witness a boom in seafood consumption, especially shrimps, with the 2020 Olympics getting nearer.
Globally, production of Black Tiger, the prime shrimp commodity in Japan, is getting eroded due to various disease problems. The traditionally farmed tiger shrimp in India are free from antibiotic residues.
Increased supply of traditional Black Tiger shrimp from West Bengal, Kerala and Karnataka would help increase the shrimp trade to Japan.
RGCA, the research wing of MPEDA, has taken up production of high health Black Tiger shrimp seeds from its multi-species aquaculture complex at Kochi, targeting the traditional and extensive farming systems of the South West coast of India and West Bengal. “Foreseeing the overwhelming demand, we are also planning specific brand promotion campaigns for Indian seafood in Japan”, Srinivas added.
Indian exports to Japan are dominated by frozen shrimp and the country exported 85,651 tonnes of seafood worth $445 million in 2017-18. Of this, frozen shrimp was 33,828 tonnes with a value of $334 million.
Other items popular in the Japanese market include squid, cuttlefish, octopus, clams, lobsters, fish fillets etc.
According to exporters, Japan has 100 per cent testing requirement for farmed shrimp imports from India. There is a good scope for shrimp and other value added products in Japan markets if India exercises better control on antibiotic contamination in the export value chain and provides third-party certification such as Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification.
With changing market preferences, Indian processors have started offering value added products such as cooked shrimps, sushi shrimp, marinated shrimps etc. However, the percentage of value addition in India is relatively small compared to Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam or China. Many Japanese importers ship raw material from India to SE Asia or China, add value and ship to Japan.
Expansion and diversification of coastal and inland aquaculture would enhance shrimp production and bring in more varieties, such as Tilapia, Mud Crab, Scampi and Cobia to the export basket.
However, there is a need to foster tie ups with Japanese importers to ship new varieties as value-added products that suit the Japanese palate and to minimise over-dependence on shrimp items.