The Curious Case of Technology in Seafood Supply Chain

Article Overview

  1. Seafood industry in India
  2. Let’s look at the key challenges
  3. And there is an Elephant in the room – Seafood Quality
  4. How technology can help combat the unethical players and ensure seafood quality?
  5. India as a responsible global seafood player

Seafood industry in India

India is a major producer and exporter of seafood, with a diverse range of marine products that include shrimp, fish, squid, and crab. The country has a long coastline of about 8,129 kilometers, and its seafood industry is mainly concentrated in the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and West Bengal.

As per the latest available data (FY 2021-22), India’s total seafood exports were valued at $7.759 billion. The major destinations for Indian seafood exports were the USA, the European Union, China, Japan, South East Asia, and the Middle East. The USA is the largest importer of Indian seafood, accounting for about 27.21% of India’s total seafood exports in terms of quantity.

In terms of volume, India exported around 1.3 million metric tons of seafood during FY 2021-22. Frozen shrimp is the most significant seafood product exported by India, accounting for more than 53% of the country’s total seafood exports in volume terms.

The Indian government has taken several initiatives to boost the country’s seafood exports. These include the establishment of aquaculture parks, modernization of fishing harbors, development of infrastructure for cold storage and transportation, and implementation of quality control measures.

Let’s look at the key challenges

The seafood industry faces several challenges that can affect its production, sustainability, and profitability. Some of the main challenges include:

  1. Overfishing: Overfishing can lead to a decline in fish populations, affecting the sustainability of the industry. This can also lead to conflicts between countries over fishing rights and regulations.
  2. Climate change: Climate change can have a significant impact on the marine environment, affecting the behavior and distribution of fish and other marine species. This can lead to changes in fishing patterns and unpredictable catches.
  3. Pollution: Pollution from various sources such as industrial effluents, sewage, and plastic waste can have adverse effects on the quality and safety of seafood. It can also lead to the closure of fishing grounds and health hazards for consumers.
  4. Regulations: Regulations related to fishing quotas, catch limits, and quality control measures can affect the profitability of the seafood industry. Compliance with regulations can also be costly for small-scale fishermen and processors.
  5. Market access: Access to international markets can be challenging for seafood exporters due to trade barriers, regulations, and certification requirements. This can affect the competitiveness of the industry and limit its growth potential.
  6. Labor issues: The seafood industry is labor-intensive, and labor issues such as exploitation, human trafficking, and poor working conditions can affect the industry’s sustainability and reputation.

Addressing these challenges requires collaboration among stakeholders, including government, industry, and civil society. Initiatives such as sustainable fishing practices, pollution control, and social responsibility programs can help promote a more sustainable and responsible seafood industry.

And there is an Elephant in the room – Seafood Quality

Manipulating the quality of seafood during exports can have serious consequences, including negative impacts on human health, reputational damage to the industry, and trade restrictions. However, some unethical players in the industry may resort to certain practices to manipulate seafood quality during exports. Here are some examples:

  1. Chemical additives: Some seafood exporters may add chemical preservatives or other additives to improve the appearance or shelf life of seafood products. However, these additives can be harmful to human health, and their use is often illegal or regulated by food safety authorities.
  2. Mislabeling: Mislabeling seafood products, such as labeling lower-quality fish as a premium species or falsely claiming organic or sustainable certifications, can mislead consumers and compromise the integrity of the industry.
  3. Temperature abuse: Maintaining the proper temperature during storage and transportation is crucial to preserving the quality and safety of seafood products. However, some exporters may not follow proper temperature controls, leading to spoilage, bacterial growth, and other quality issues.
  4. Counterfeiting: In some cases, unscrupulous seafood exporters may counterfeit premium seafood products, such as replacing genuine shrimp or crab meat with inferior substitutes, to save costs and increase profits.

To combat these unethical practices, it is essential for seafood exporters to follow strict quality control measures and comply with food safety regulations. In addition, government agencies and international organizations play a critical role in monitoring and enforcing food safety and quality standards to prevent fraudulent practices in the seafood industry.

How technology can help combat the unethical players and ensure seafood quality?

Although there are third-party certification programs, such as the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) or the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, can provide assurance to consumers and buyers that seafood products are produced sustainably and meet quality standards, they are not full-proof or 100% reliable.

That’s where modern technologies can step in and contribute to address these issues.

  • Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the seafood industry by increasing transparency, traceability, and accountability in the supply chain. You can read more about blockchain technology in seafood industry here.
  • IoT (Internet of Things) technology can be applied to various aspects of the seafood industry, including harvesting, processing, and transportation. You can read more about internet of things in seafood industry here.

India as a responsible global seafood player

The Indian government has established several measures to ensure the quality and safety of seafood produced and exported from the country. Here are some of the key measures:

  1. Export Inspection Council (EIC): The EIC is responsible for ensuring the quality and safety of seafood exports from India. It operates a network of laboratories and inspection centers to test seafood products for compliance with international standards.
  2. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI): The FSSAI is the apex body responsible for regulating food safety and standards in India. It sets standards for seafood products and ensures that they are adhered to by food businesses across the country.
  3. Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA): The MPEDA is responsible for promoting the export of seafood products from India. It provides technical assistance to seafood producers and exporters and works with the EIC to ensure that seafood products meet international standards.
  4. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system: The HACCP system is a food safety management system that is widely used in the seafood industry. The Indian government has mandated that all seafood processing and export units in the country implement HACCP systems to ensure the safety and quality of their products.
  5. Traceability systems: The Indian government has also put efforts to mandate the use of traceability systems in the seafood industry. This helps to track the origin of seafood products and ensure that they are produced in compliance with food safety and environmental standards.

Overall, these measures help to ensure that seafood produced and exported from India meets international quality and safety standards, and are important for maintaining the country’s reputation as a supplier of high-quality seafood.

Although these are positive efforts from India as a nation to protect the interest of seafood importers and consumers, a more practical, seamless and 100% reliable system can come into a reality only with the help of technology and as a company Nextler Innovations is in the journeys towards it.

Source: FY 2021-22 Annual report by MPEDA