Chinese ban on nine firms hits Pakistan’s fish exports

Published July 25, 2021
THIS combo picture shows seafood (clockwise) ribbon fish, eels, Japanese thread fin bream — also known as JTB — octopus and shrimps in baskets. Workers at a seafood processing unit arrange boxes of fish and shrimps.
THIS combo picture shows seafood (clockwise) ribbon fish, eels, Japanese thread fin bream — also known as JTB — octopus and shrimps in baskets. Workers at a seafood processing unit arrange boxes of fish and shrimps.

KARACHI: A number of Pakistani companies have been facing a temporary ban on exports of fish and fish preparations to China since January after detection of coronavirus in their shipments.

Qadri Noori Enterprise chief executive officer Manzar Alam told Dawn that around 50 companies have been exporting fish to China. Out of top 15 exporters, some nine firms are now temporarily banned by the Chinese authorities.

Giving details of the ban, he said in case the coronavirus is detected in one shipment, the exporter faces a one-week ban and in case of four cases, then the exporter cannot send the shipment for eight weeks, he said.

He said Pakistan’s seafood exports have since been in crisis as 60 per cent out of the country’s total fish exports are destined for China.

Mr Alam said coronavirus had been detected in outer cartons and the Chinese authorities instead of destroying the infected consignment or sending it into quarantine for 15 days had suspended the shipping company.

“The rejected consignments then arrived back in Pakistan and exporters are facing Rs2 million per container as demurrage and detention and taxes,” he added.

“Exporters have taken up the matter with Commerce Adviser Abdul Razak Dawood who had constituted a committee, but no headway has been made so far,” he added.

One container with 26 tonnes of fish carries a price between Rs7m and Rs10m, he said.

Pakistan has been exporting seafood at an average unit price (AUP) of less than $2.5 per kg from FY18 to FY21 as compared to AUP of $5 to 8 per kg earned by regional competitors.

“We have been exporting small fish which earn low prices for the last four years,” Deep Blue Seafood Ltd CEO M. Faisal Iftikhar Ali said, adding that fish meal is being exported in bulk quantities which is used in poultry feed.

He said India is fetching an AUP of $5-7 per kg followed by over $5 by Bangladesh and $7-8 per kg by China. The average global AUP comes to $5 per kg.

Pakistan’s fish and fish preparation exports in FY21 stood slightly higher at 184,396 tonnes fetching $414m but AUP came to $2.25 per kg compared with exports of 171,704 tonnes valuing $406m with AUP of $2.35 per kg in FY20.

Pakistan had seen the highest-ever exports of 198,420 tonnes in FY18 which earned $451m but the AUP was $2.27 per kg, while in FY19 exports were 195,523 tonnes fetching $438m with AUP at $2.24, PBS data showed.

Fish exports had managed to get $2.58 per kg value with export of 152,858 tonnes worth $394m in 2016-2017 and AUP of $2.54 per kg in 2015-2016 with export of 127,910 tonnes fetching $325m.

According to the Economic Survey FY21, Pakistan’s main buyers of fish products are China, Thailand, Malaysia, the Middle East, Sri Lanka and Japan. The survey said since resumption of exports to the European Union (EU), several consignments of fish, cuttlefish and shrimps had been sent by two exporters who were cleared after 100 per cent laboratory tests at the EU borders. Six more fish processing plants are in the pipeline and their cases for approval are under process with the EU authorities.

Belgium, Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom had imported 3,285 tonnes of fish, squid shrimps and crabs valuing $13mn during July-March FY21 on which the AUP comes to $395 per tonne, the survey said.

Mr Faisal said India as well as other countries are giving a tough time to Pakistan as these competitors have adopted shrimp farming, while in Pakistan there is negligible marine farming.

Pakistan has been facing a problem of overfishing of juvenile fish causing persistent drop in landing of high value fish, he said, adding that a joint study by Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and Marine Fisheries Department (MFD) of the Federal Government had undertaken a comprehensive assessment of Pakistan’s Marine Fisheries Resources 2015 and revealed massive fish stocks depletion in Pakistan’s seas.

Technical Adviser (Marine Fisheries), WWF-Pakistan, Mohammad Moazam Khan said fish production in Pakistan in 2020 was observed to be 619,000 tonnes of which inland fish contributed 250,000 tonnes, whereas marine production was 369,741 tonnes. The landing of fish in Sindh was 208,001 tonnes whereas Balochistan production is 161,740 tonnes.

The export is increasing mainly because of rising export of fish meal. The production mainly of marine fish in Sindh has been decreasing since 1999 because of over fishing and an increased fishing fleet, he said.

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has warned in 2016 to reduce fishing fleet by 50pc or else major fisheries resources may collapse, however, no heed was paid by the fishermen and authorities concerned and no control on the fleet is in place, he said.

WWF-Pakistan has shown its concern that about 200 tonnes of tuna being smuggled to Iran daily. If this illegal trade is controlled Pakistani exports may reach a level of at least $550m. There is immediate need to reducing fishing fleet both Sindh and Balochistan else the fisheries may collapse, he stressed.

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2021

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