Product profile: Canned tuna

Tariff Line of canned/tinned tuna for India: 16041410. HS CODE is 160414.
• According to forecasts, the canned tuna market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.67% during the period 2019-2022.
• Global size of the canned tuna market was at around US$ 10.8 billion in 2017, which is expected to increase at a CAGR of 4.67% over 2019-2022, reaching a value worth US$ 12.9 billion by the end of 2022.
• Thailand is the largest exporter of canned tuna with a share of around 29% followed by Ecuador, Spain and China. Top importers include USA, Italy, Spain, France and UK
• India can raise its market share to 0.5% just by addressing critical gaps in the value chain, including infrastructure, modernisation, traceability, production and productivity.


Burgeoning consumer dependence on prepared and ready-to-eat food is considered to be a key driver for the canned tuna market. Global size of the canned tuna market was around US$ 10.8 billion in 2017, which is expected to increase at a CAGR of 4.67% over 2019-2022, reaching a value worth US$ 12.9 billion by the end of 2022. Canned tuna with high storage capacity is expected to drive market growth.

Canned or tinned tuna is a vital source of important vitamins and minerals, such as selenium and vitamin D. Also, it has essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, high quality lean protein and healthy fat. Omega-3 fatty acids contribute to good heart health by reducing the risk of abnormal heart rhythms that can lead to sudden death. Apart from omega-3 acids, tuna is one of the few naturally rich sources of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is crucial in maintaining normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. It helps build and maintain strong bones and prevents rickets and osteomalacia. It also prevents certain types of cancer and diabetes. Also, such nutrients are important during pregnancy and for a healthy heart and brain. Therefore, with increasing awareness of the health benefits of tuna, the market for canned tuna is expected to register a positive outlook during the forecast period.

On the basis of end-markets of tuna, Japan represents the largest consumer, followed by the US, Republic of Korea and others. Based on the species, Skipjack tuna dominates the total tuna market, followed by Yellowfin, Bigeye, Albacore and Bluefin.

The canning industry remains the main destination for most of the world’s tuna catches. Thailand is by far the largest exporter of processed tuna in the world. For canned products, the raw material is supplied both from local landings & imports, though by different proportions depending on the country, which becomes a part of global value chains.

Top exporter of canned tuna as per 2018

Exporters Value exported in 2018 (US$ million) Unit value (US$/unit) Share in world exports (%)
World 7,813.83 4,788 100
Thailand 2,256.20 4,387 28.9
Ecuador 1,109.98 4,993 14.2
Spain 681.70 6,282 8.7
China 484.76 4,582 6.2
Indonesia 387.29 4,710 5
Philippines 353.02 2,615 4.5
Netherlands 281.27 5,491 3.6
Seychelles 279.08 7,866 3.6
Mauritius 272.88 5,042 3.5
Viet Nam 262.01 4,831 3.4

Source: ITC Trade Map

Thailand is the largest exporter capturing the world export basket of canned tuna of approximately 29% followed by Ecuador, Spain and China.

Importers Value imported in 2018 (US$ thousand) Unit value (US$/unit) Share in world imports (%) Average tariff (estimated) applied by the country (%)
World 8,254.61 5,212 100
USA 1,102.56 5,282 13.4 6.5
Italy 867.40 6,714 10.5 8.1
Spain 705.01 5,503 8.5 8.1
France 570.20 5,708 6.9 8.1
United Kingdom 552.36 5,266 6.7 8.1
Germany 460.98 5,010 5.6 8.1
Japan 377.36 5,787 4.6 5.3
Australia 238.57 5,063 2.9 3.2
Netherlands 238.41 4,948 2.9 8.1
Saudi Arabia 194.10 4,516 2.4 4.6

Source: ITC Trade Map

Top importers of canned tuna include USA, Italy, Spain, France and UK. Japan is the largest Asian importing economy. The major markets for canned tuna are US, EU, Australia, Japan and few Middle East countries. However, consumption in the last decade has remained sluggish in EU and the US, and increased only moderately in Japan. It is rising in the less traditional markets of Latin America and the Far East, where the volume of imports has risen by around 50% in the last five years.

The organization of the canned tuna industry is comprised of convoluted international trade networks. It is common practice in European and US industries to execute the first steps of processing in developing countries close to the main landing areas and then export semi-processed products to the facilities in developed countries for completing the process till final distribution and consumption. These networks involve trade of a wide variety of product forms across countries, which may vary in their levels of processing.

India not yet a player

India has a coastline that extends over 8,000 km, so it’s no wonder that the country is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of fish and fish products. The government’s decisions to invest US$ 15 billion in cold-storage infrastructure, sanction 100 cold-chain projects in the near-term, and allow 100% foreign direct investment in the sector are all helping to boost availability of frozen fish. This sounds good news for India’s busy urban consumers who are increasingly looking for quick and easy meals. As a result, by 2020, it is expected that India’s overall processed fish market to almost double to around US$ 70 million.

India is neither a major consumer of canned tuna, consuming less than 1% of its production, nor a major exporter. In 2018-19 India exported only US$ 610,000 worth of canned tuna to Qatar and Libya. Fishery resource potential of oceanic tuna in India’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is estimated at 213,000 tons. Yellowfin accounts for 54% of this potential followed by skipjack (40%) and Big-eye at 6%.

In order to be able to manage our tuna resources in efficient manner, data on the habitat preferences and migration routes of tuna is vital. In this year’s budget Government has announced a new scheme to promote processing in the fishery sector and allocated an estimated Rs 3,737 crore for the newly carved out Department of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying. The new scheme, Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY), will be established under the Department of Fisheries for a robust fisheries management framework.

Marine Products Exports and Development Authority (MPEDA) has started implementing a scheme for assisting the conversion of existing fishing vessels to tuna long liners for augmenting production of oceanic tuna. If we see the global exports of canned tuna, it stands at US$ 7.81 billion, where India has a potential to export at least 0.5%, which accounts for US$ 390 million just by addressing critical gaps in the value chain, including infrastructure, modernisation, traceability, production and productivity.

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