The Fisheries Department has made arrangements, in adherence to safety protocols to prevent spread of COVID–19 virus, for sale of catches netted by mechanised trawlers from Monday after the ban period ends at the harbours in the coastal districts of delta region, but there are indications that only less number of boats will venture into the sea due to unfavourable conditions.
Operators of mechanised trawlers are not convinced about the possibility for reasonable returns for the catches as the export market for the marine products remains dull due to COVID–19 lockdown conditions worldwide.
According to officials, the bulk of the catches in the coastal districts gets transported to the processing plants in Kerala from where products like shrimps and squids get exported to other countries.
European countries have scaled down and some have even cancelled their earlier orders, leaving exporters in the lurch. Another reason why fish merchants are wary about procuring the catches in large quantities is the struggle being faced by processing units in Kerala due to sudden decline in manpower after exodus of the North Indian labour force to their respective States.
Though the lockdown restrictions have been stepped up in Coimbatore district through which the fish loads have to pass, transport will not be a problem since the marine products have also been categorised under essential commodities. “Though the export market is dull, the requirement for marine products will still be on the higher side in Kerala, since there is a requirement for internal consumption what with the 45-day fishing ban period starting in the State from June 15”, Joint Director of Fisheries in Nagapattinam district Amal Raj Xavier said.
According to a senior official of MPEDA (Marine Products Exports Development Authority), China was the only country where the marine products were exported so far. The current military stand-off between India and China has raised fears among exporters about further decline in overseas market, the official said.