By Saket Suman
New Delhi, Oct 14: For well over two decades, Norwegian seafood is being served at high-end eateries in India but the imports have been significantly small due to high customs duties.
Now, there is a push to promote it in India, thanks to the efforts of the body which promotes the Nordic country’s seafood.
“Earlier, due to high customs duties the price had been above the local fish, so import volumes remained small. However, with an increasingly affluent middle class, our analysis has shown that there are potentially 20-30 million Indians who can afford to buy our products like salmon and Atlantic cod,” the Oslo-based Yogi Shergill, Director of Norwegian Seafood Council, told IANS during a visit here.
“We are aware that convincing the consumer to purchase Norwegian seafood will be a challenge and will take time. However, we now see that some local fish like pomfret is priced very close to our salmon, and higher than what Atlantic cod is sold at, so the prospects looks good,” Shergill said adding that Norwegian exporters have to be patient and have staying power to capture part of the market in India.
The Council is part of Norway’s Ministry of Trade and Fisheries, with a mandate to work with exporters to promote seafood around the world. Its mission is to maintain and develop new markets and enhance the value of the country’s seafood to benefit exporters.
“India has not been a market that the exporters have focused on. However we have seen in the last 2-3 years that salmon is now sold in modern retail stores and is available to the consumers, which is a new trend. It was therefore decided in conjunction with the exporters to explore actively the potential for Norwegian seafood,” Shergill explained.
The Council seems to be catching up fast. For example, its findings suggested that “a larger community” in Mumbai and Chennai is vegetarian. So they reduced their marketing activities accordingly and concentrated more on cities like Bengaluru and Goa.
Shergill also pointed out that the annual consumption of seafood in India was around 9.4 million tonnes, with 50 per cent coming from the sea and the rest from freshwater aquaculture.
“The wild catch from the Indian Ocean is not growing, but in a stable-to-declining state. So, if there has to be a growth in local consumption, it would be either through increased aquaculture, marine sea farms along the coast or imports. Our seafood is from the cold and pristine waters of the Northern Atlantic, so salmon and cod cannot be farmed in India, and pose no threat to the local fish,” he added.
Aiming to raise the interest in Norwegian seafood, the Council recently hosted an exclusive Seafood from Norway dinner with the country’s ambassador, Nils Ragnar Kamsvaag, in the capital. The networking dinner presented fresh salmon that is netted from Norway’s fjords.
The grand buffet of consistently delicious seafood made a fusion to tickle the India palate. Delicately flavoured salmon dishes comprised appetizers and mains dishes like achari salmon, spicy tamarind glazed salmon, chili glazed salmon, salmon coconut malai curry, Chive pancakes with smoked salmon, green olive chutney and lemon meringue. The delights may soon be on their way to a restaurant near you.