The total value of exports in the current fiscal will remain far below the record $ 172 million in 1997-98

By Syed M. Aslam
Apr 10 - 16, 2000

Pakistan exported sea-food worth $ 91 million during the first eight months of the current fiscal year ended February 29. The performance, depicting a 15 per cent increase over the corresponding period last year, is expected to push the total sea-food exports in the vicinity of $ 140-150 million during the current fiscal ending June 30.

Despite the expected increase in the sea-food exports this year the total value of exports in the current fiscal will remain far below the record $ 172 million in 1997-98 primarily due to a number of reasons. The export restrictions slapped by the EU and the US, the two major markets of Pakistani sea-food exports, have an destabilising effect on the sea-food exports.

Moazzam Khan, the principal planning officer of Marine Fisheries Department, told PAGE that EU's approval to include Pakistan in the List I category of exporters some three months ago reflect the satisfaction of the EU about the improved hygienic handling of the sea-food at all stages from catching to processing. In late 1998 the EU's dis-satisfaction had resulted in the imposition of months-long ban to deprive Pakistan a substantial sea-food export earnings. The EU had also placed Pakistan in the List II of sea-food exporters which severely restricted the volume of exports to the biggest market of Pakistani seafood.

The inclusion of Pakistan in the List I of sea-food exporters was approved after an EU delegation visited Pakistan about three months ago. The delegation visited the Karachi Fisheries Harbour and the sea-food processing units located there to witness for itself the improved hygienic conditions. The solving of the hygienic issue to the satisfaction of the EU will help Pakistan to once again solidify its sea-food exports in its biggest market.

Over the years the US has also time-and-again banned or threatened to ban Pakistani sea-food exports due to the absence of the installation of the TED (Turtle Escape Device) in the fishing nets which allows turtles to escape back into the sea unharmed. The environment issue aimed at protecting the sea turtles, which are listed on the list of endangered species, have often jeopardised sea-food exports to another major market of Pakistani sea-food exports.

Pakistan sea-food exporters are anxiously waiting for the report of the US team which visited Pakistan couple of months ago about the TED issue. Meanwhile, the sea-food exports to the US continues undisrupted as more fishing boats than ever before are being fitted with the TED device, which though inexpensive was conveniently ignored to be installed previously.

The growing hygienic and environmental concerns of the major sea-food export markets have resulted in implementation of stricter laws governing granting of licences to only those sea-food processing units which fulfil the strict hygienic criteria. The yesteryears' practice of issuing export licences indiscriminately has been replaced by issuing licences to only those processing units which fulfil a much stricter hygienic criteria.

At present only 11 processing plants have been issued the licence to export sea-food products unlike over two-dozens two years ago. During next three months another 4-5 units will be granted the export licences to meet the hygienic criteria laid down by the EU. Resolving the hygienic and environmental issues to the satisfaction of the major export markets such as the EU and the US is expected to help not only to increase sea-food exports substantially but to also help increase the unit value price of Pakistani sea-food exports due to improved quality, freshness and timely delivery. Trends show that the unit value price of sea-food exports have fluctuated wildly over the years, and in many cases where they were increased the benefit has been neutralised by a continuously weakening Pakistani rupee. It is, thus, safe to say that the per unit price of Pakistani sea-food exports has not increased in real terms. It also means that despite exporting increased quantity the value of sea-food exports would fail to depict a corresponding increase.

While the importance of increasing the volume of sea-food exports could hardly be over-emphasised the need to improve, and ensure, better quality to fetch the premium price could not also be neglected. The insistence on the quality of sea-food product by the major importers should be treated as a blessing in disguise for the Pakistani sea-food industry in the years to come.



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Source: Economic Survey 1998-99