Exporters find shrimp catch too much to process

Transport portion of the shrimps to processing units in Kerala

The huge ‘first day catch’ of more than 500 tonnes of shrimps in Rameswaram on June 16 after the end of 61-day fish ban period became too much for the six fish export companies, including four Thoothukudi-based companies, to process and defreeze.

The Rameswaram, Pamban and Mandapam fishermen who had ventured into the sea for fishing after the ban period returned with an unprecedented catch of shrimps and the export companies, which were taken off guard, had a tough time procuring the shrimps, officials said.

The catch was beyond their processing capacity. The companies had to transport portion of the shrimps to the processing units in Kerala.

Soon after procuring, the companies began the processing – peeling and deveining the shrimps, a laborious task, and it took three days for the Mandapam-based companies to complete the process. Only expert workers could do the peeling and deveining, otherwise the muscles would come off, leading to weight loss and cut in profit, the officials said.

The processed shrimps were de-frozen in minus 20 degree celsius before packed and exported, they said. Nearly 60% of the processed prawns were exported to Japan, 30% to the US and 10% to the Middle East, they said.

Three species – white, tiger and brown prawns – were caught in the Palk Bay and the brown prawns, popularly known as Mandapam Flower Shrimp, commanded a good market in Japan, officials said. The processed shrimps had a shelf life of six months.

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