ith seafood exports sector growing by the day, Aditya Dash, the Managing Director of Ram’s, the seafood exports division of the Suryo group of companies, has said that Odisha’s export volume would soon reach a whopping Rs 5,000 crore. The Suryo group has been in the seafood industry for more than 40 years. Ram’s has a vertically integrated, hatchery to finished product value chain for Vannamei shrimp. Aditya is currently Vice Chairman of MPEDA. During a tete-a-tete with Orissa POST, the MD shared seafood market scenario and strategies for further devolvement of the industry. Excerpts…
What are the major challenges the seafood industry is facing during the pandemic?
Initially, there were uncertainties and farmers incurred some losses owing to panic harvests. Typically, shrimp is largely consumed by the HORECA (Hotel, Restaurant and Cafe) sector, and this greatly affected the demand. However, there was a huge increase in demand from the retail segment and that certainly is good for the industry in the long run. However, until the HORECA sector recovers fully, small and medium exporters, who do not sell to the retail markets, would face a tough time.
Which is more in demand? Fish or shrimp?
In terms of volume, fish has the highest demand but in terms of value shrimp will overtake fish. However, demand for shrimp is highest in volume as far as Odisha is concerned. We witnessed a phenomenal growth of the industry. In 2006, the overall seafood export from Odisha was around `500 crore but today we are looking at an export volume of a whopping `5,000 crore. Odisha has also followed the same trajectory that world is seeing. Farm-raised products are increasing but the sale of wild caught products is declining. This situation needs to be addressed by the government.
What about your strategies for the growth of the group of companies?
My strategy is sustainability because it is what we believe in and it is also what our customers want.
Any suggestions to the state government?
As far as shrimp farming is concerned, we have been suffering from the pandemic like white spot virus since 1995. This apart, there are 14 pathogens which affect shrimp farmers. The burden on small holder farmers, who account for 90 per cent of the total farming population, is severe. The government should invest in disease diagnostic labs and ensure that the farmers of Odisha have access to good veterinary services. Diseases are currently responsible for the biggest amount of value destruction in this industry and we hope the government interacts with stakeholders and formulates correct policies.
Also, there should be improvement of power infrastructure as most of the farming is in coastal and remote areas. Lack of electricity connectivity is the main reason why Odisha farmers are lagging behind their Andhra Pradesh counterparts.
Odisha government should also regulate the aquaculture industry to promote best practices and to crack down on bad practices.