The Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, has suggested a protocol to avoid Covid or nucleic acid in fresh and frozen Indian seafood exports to China. China is the leading importer of seafood, with annual growth in imports of 3.8% CAGR from 2019-2023, according to Statista.
The CCMB’s solution became urgent after Indian seafood shipments were detected with Covid-19 infected material over the last few months. To avert rejections, the Indian Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) requested the National Institute of Virology, Pune, the Institute of Plasma Research, Gandhinagar, and the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology in Hyderabad to come up with solutions to resolve the problem.
CCMB’s recommended protocol
At the end of September 2021, the CCMB Hyderabad recommended using 1% sodium hypochlorite to altogether remove SARS CoV-2 from both cardboard and LPDE (low-density polyethylene) surfaces. This would ensure that no SARS-CoV-2 RNA traces are found in RT-PCR tests conducted by the Chinese authorities and those of other importing countries.
“It is important to ensure that the spray covers the entire surface of the packaging material for complete removal of the viral material. In addition, the material should be left untouched/undisturbed for some time so that the hypochlorite performs its function and doesn’t get removed,” said the CCMB scientists.
All the Indian seafood processing units are requested to follow the protocol to de-risk SARS-CoV-2 RNA traces on packaging material. It is also suggested that the disinfected cartons should be handled by following the prevention of Covid-19 protocols. This means only fully vaccinated and tested as Covid-19 negative workers and technicians should handle the packaging material and the loading of the containers for shipment.
The General Administration of Customs China (GACC) has suspended the import of marine products from some Indian exporters after detecting Covid on the packaging of shipments. As a result, fifty-one exporters were suspended indefinitely, and three were suspended temporarily by the GACC from exporting seafood products.
While the target fixed for Indian marine exports for the current fiscal was US$ 7.83 billion, trends in the first quarter of FY 21-22 indicate a 23% increase so far in terms of dollar value. However, seafood exports need to grow by 31% to meet the industry target.