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Seafood export to Middle East declines

Seafood export to Middle East declines

KARACHI: Pakistan’s export of seafood to Middle East, particularly to Kuwait and United Arab Emirates has reduced by 40 per cent because of low catch and growing fishing cost.

Sources said that fishermen have demanded the government to give subsidy on oil fuel to offset the growing expenses. Fall in fresh fish export has hit the country’s fisheries exporters since seafood catch has fallen significantly in cold weather with a soaring fishing cost.

According to Sindh Trawlers Owners and Fishermen Association (STOFA) President Habibullah Khan Niazi the winter seafood catch has fallen by 30 per cent since the weather turned gusty on the seas. “The winter fish is costlier on the local market as compared to the Middle Eastern markets which eventually forces a number of fresh seafood exporters to halt their shipments till market normalises,” Niazi said.

He said that the expenses of fishing operations grow in winter as marine species plunge deep to seabed due to cold sea surface, making the fishermen toil in hunt for an extended period. Many fishermen tied up their boats since the winter winds began to blow across the seas, he said, adding that “it is very hard for fishermen to run after fish in hostile conditions at high operation cost against low return.”

Sources said that another reason for fall of fresh seafood export to Dubai and Kuwait is a clamp down by Marine Fisheries Department (MFD), which has barred all consignments from exceeding two metric tonnes by an exporter.

They added that previously on a single license a number of fake exporters would export seafood to the Middle Eastern countries without maintaining standards of the food, which resulted in a ban from Saudi Arabia.

At present, MFD has tightened fresh seafood export rules with strict implementation to weed out the fake exporters who have largely damaged the country’s reputation abroad. However, the move by MFD has also contributed to fall in seafood export. Country’s largest fisheries market lacks any regulatory body which largely helped the fake exporters to take advantage of the situation. However, fake exporters largely created mess for genuine traders whose credibility has largely been shattered from low quality seafood export.

“These fake exporters do not posses NTN, no record with MFD of their export and no documentation at export stage. They use others licenses and official documents to export fresh seafood to world markets,” source said.

Fishermen said the government should extend subsidy to them so that the high operation cost could be offset with landing of a bigger seafood catch at low price. “The move will also help boost the country’s export of seafood to world markets at high rates to earn more foreign exchange,” they said. Normally, the winter season stays lean by end of February from hostile weather, as fish catch swells from March to May before the government places a three-month fishing ban from June to August across the province.