Amid import ban, Goa fish processing industry expresses worry

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Panaji : A Goa trade body has warned of closure of the Rs 750 crore fish processing industry in the coastal state, if there is a permanent ban on import of seafood from neighbouring states, its spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Addressing a press conference here, Phillip D'Souza, chairperson of the food processing cell of the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the fish processing industry in Goa annually exports nearly 35,000 tonnes of fish worth Rs 750 crore. The state government should set up mechanisms to track formalin-laced fish, instead of banning entry of all fish-laden into the state.

"If there is a ban on import of seafood, these processing units will be economically so badly impacted, that they would need to shut down. The processors are collectively exporting 35,000 tons of fish worth Rs 750 crore per annum," D'Souza said.

The remarks come in wake of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar's decision to ban all import of seafood, after a Food Drugs and Administration raid last month revealed traces of formalin in the fish consignments imported from other states.

A flip-flop by the agency further fuelled speculation about formalin use, with consumers staying away from fish markets, over fears of the fish being laced with the powerful disinfectant used to preserve cadavers.

Following the public scare, Parrikar on July 18 imposed a ban on import of fish from other states till August 3. The Chief Minister during the ongoing monsoon session of the Assembly also expressed willingness to extend the 15-day ban "in the interest of the health of the Goans, if the prevailing circumstances remain the same".

D'Souza, however, said that any extension of the ban would result in a trickle-down economic effect and affect the employment.

"Almost 90 per cent of the fish we process is exported. Most of the material that we pick up for processing is from across the border. If 12 processing facilities are going to be affected by supplies, it is going to affect the employment. There will be a trickle-down economic effect. These sort of situations are undesirable," D'Souza said.