According to media reports, exports of frozen seafood from Pakistan have risen to $315.525 million during the fiscal year 2011 – 12, by 6.53 percent or $19.343 million. So far, so good. But the truth behind the increase in value of exports is hardly commensurate with the export volume and is mainly due to extraordinary weakening of the Pakistani rupee against the US dollar and other currencies.

Without derogating the efforts made by seafood exporters to survive the long – lasting ban on seafood exports imposed by the EU, Japan and the US, it may not be out of place to mention that the existing condition of depleting fishery stocks and poor fishery management risks a total disaster after a few years if attention is not paid to restore and revive the marine resources. There is hardly any notable progress in fish and shrimp culture which is the need of the day because more than 50 percent of fishery exports have now switched over to cultivated fish.

It is because of this cultured fish that the demand for wild fish has slowed down. Wild fish is only sought after by importers as filler when supplies dry down from major fish exporting origins or when it is available at a much cheaper price than the cultured variety or is conveniently available from some exporting origin such as Pakistan. A mention of China paying a higher price for cuttlefish, squid and some kinds of shrimp is only an oddity because cephalopods are only a seasonal variety having a short catching season where after they are hardly caught. As for shrimp, there are more than half a dozen varieties caught in our seas but the same are not available round the year.

Thus when there is no buyer for them during their season or it is not available at other exporting origins at competitive prices, it provides a good chance for alternative buyers like China to jump at the opportunity and cash in. Not bad for the importer or the exporter as it benefits both. But the issue is that total reliance on any one origin is not wise as it has shown in the case of dependence on the EU, Japan and the US too which have been the most potential exporting origins for Pakistani seafood for the last several years. But they have suddenly blacklisted Pakistan for one reason or the other.

Although the Pakistani seafood exporters have won a few alternative markets other than China, if proper fishery management and quality control is applied there is no reason that Pakistani seafood would not be able to win back the lost huge markets such as the EU, Japan and the US.

Without a re-entry into these markets it will always remain doubtful if the alternative markets are paying internationally competitive prices to our seafood exporters or tend to prove stable markets for their products.

MAZHAR BUTT,

Karachi, August 29.