Kochi: Seafood processing units from Kerala are shifting to Andhra Pradesh due to the decrease in fish availability. Eight units have already moved to Andhra Pradesh.
This could be a major setback for Kerala, which earns about Rs 6,000 crore annually from seafood exports.
Many fishing days were lost over two years due to floods and continuous rains. The situation worsened due to the COVID-related restrictions.
Port ban affects availability
During the COVID lockdown days, fishing was halted completely. Even after the withdrawal of the lockdown, fishing ports continued to remain closed as part of the fight against COVID because of which boats are moving to other states instead of coming to Kerala.
Due to low fish availability, processing units have been able to use only 20-25% of their capacities.
Peeling units also in crisis
Peeling units are also in crisis due to non-availability of fish and the occasional categorisation of their regions as COVID containment zones. These units are the primary component of the fish processing industry.
Many peeling units are shifting base to rural areas in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Odisha. The other big loss is of well-trained guest workers from the peeling units leaving the state in search of work.
Fishing harbours should be allowed to operate with scientific regulations. A petition has been submitted to the Union ministry of commerce regarding the crisis in the sector, Alex K Ninan, president of Seafood Exporters Association, Kerala, said.
He said measures are needed to expand shrimp farming in water bodies in Kerala. Financial assistance should be provided to workers in peeling units.
Also, electricity charges of the lockdown period should be allowed to be paid in instalments instead of being charged together, he said.