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Future of Indian shrimp exports depends on better aquaculture.

Future of Indian Shrimp Exports Depends on Better Aquaculture

More hatcheries and feed plants needed to exploit vast resources of country's brackish water. Development of deep-sea fisheries and value-added products also pushed.

With an annual production of 2.9 million tons, India is the world's seventh greatest fishing nation. And at 200,000 tons a year, it ranks second in shrimp landings, with eight to 10% of the world's output -- and is the leading shrimp exporter.

Shrimp still account for up to 80% of the country's fish and seafood exports, but there is a great potential left untapped: in the seas around India, only 1.75 million of an estimated 4.5 million tons in resources are being exploited. Inland fisheries account for 1.38 million tons a year.

Shrimp is landed from the sea all along the 4,000-mile coast of India. Both mechanized boats (about 22,000) and large trawlers (about 140) are engaged in shrimp fishing, not to mention unpowered craft. Mechanized vessels of all kinds account for approximately 70% of the marine shrimp catch; while the other 30% is shared by country craft numbering well over 120,000. The West Coast waters, which are shallow, are particularly rich shrimp grounds. The important landing centers there are in the states of Kerala, Maharashtra and Gujarat. The West Coast, which lands mostly smaller sizes, accounts for about 80% of the total shrimp caught in the seas around the subcontinent.

The East Coast, where the continental shelf is quite narrow, is rich in large shrimp, mainly tiger, white, brown, and pink-brown varieties. Large trawlers (more than 20 meters in length) are doing most of the shrimp fishing profitably off the East Coast; most of these trawlers are based at a single port, Vizag.

In India shrimp from the sea is landed throughout the year. When the season ends on the West Coast, it commences on the East Coast and vice versa. However, the landings in the second half of the year (i.e. July to December) are always larger and better than in the first half; the season is good on both coasts during this period.

Sea landings of shrimp set a record in 1975, at about 220,000 tons; thereafter, landings continued to be well below 200,000 tons (except for one year, 1986, when the landings rose to 212,000). In the last 10 years, landings have averaged as low as 179,000 tons per annum. Fishing efforts increased, but production failed to improve; the size of the shrimp caught has also decreased. This has created a feeling that the exploitation of the shrimp fishing from the wild has reached a level of saturation. This is reflected in shrimp exports. From 1976 to 1986, exports were stagnant, and moving in a narrow range, around 50,000 tons. In 1986, the exports slipped down to a level as low as 49,203 tonnes. In order to correct this trend, a few positive steps were taken; they included banning shrimp trawling during specific periods in selected locations, and the shrimp trawler operators jointly restraining themselves from fishing during a particular period.

Prawn Farm Development

Declining shrimp production from the capture fishery and consequent falling exports have raised alarming awareness among national planners to look for alternate sources for augmenting production. Raising shrimp through brackish water farming was recognized as a viable proposition to boost production for export. Consequently, all possible steps were taken to develop prawn farming along the coast.

India is one of a handful of countries in the world with rich natural resources for prawn farming. The brackish water area available in the country is about 1.4 million hectares, of which about 900,000 hectares are reported to be suitable for fish or prawn farming. But only about 59,000 hectares are under active prawn farming -- about 50,000 hectares under traditional culture, the other 9000 hectares under scientific farming. The traditional culture refers to paddy-cum-prawn farming, which is being carried out in West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka and Goa. The shrimp production rate under the traditional culture is very low, ranging from 200 to 500 kilograms of mixed species per hectare per year; moreover, the species grown there are low-value.

The new areas developed recently in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are under scientific farming mainly for Penaeus monodon. The stocking rate is 30,000 to 50,000 per hectare and the survival rate is 70%. Their production ranges from 500 to 2,000 kgs per hectare per crop. Small farmers achieve a level of 500 kilograms, while the progressive farmers get 1,500-2,000 kilograms per crop in a 4-5 month culture period. It is also reported that one farmer was able to achieve a production level of 8,000 kgs per hectare per crop. This gives India greater confidence for achieving higher production levels in the coming year. Overall shrimp production from culture sources (both from traditional and scientific farming) during 1988 was estimated at 24,000 tons.

New areas are being added up every year. More and more entrepreneurs are entering the field. A few parties are trying to develop prawn farming under the 100% Export Oriented Unit scheme. The State Governments are taking steps to allot Government lands to entrepreneurs for prawn farm development. The Government also provides free technical assistance and financial help to give a real boost to prawn farming. It is envisaged that an additional 4,000 hectares of brackish water area is to be brought under scientific culture every year, which would add at least 4,000 tons of shrimp for export every year.

Seed and feed are standing as major hurdles for the growth of prawn farming in India, as indeed they have in other parts of the world. Most of the farmers still depend on the wild seed stock, collected from estuaries. Only a few farmers are able to make use of hatchery produced seeds. At present, there are about eight hatcheries in operation -- five in the public (or Government) sector and three in the private sector. Three hatcheries -- two of the Government sector units (one at Vizag and the other at Orissa) put up by MPEDA and one of the private sector units -- are quite large. Yet the current availability of seeds is inadequate to meet the rising demand. With a view to obviating this problem, a chain of hatcheries is envisaged in the maritime states. Proposals are also in the pipeline to establish five prawn hatcheries, each with 25 million capacity, in the states of Goa, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa with UNDP assistance. A hatchery for fresh water shrimp has also been proposed.

Nutritionally balanced good quality prawn feed, another basic requirement for prawn farming, is yet to be manufactured in India. There exists great opportunity to set up feed mills in India under joint venture or collaboration programs. There are already proposals under process to set up three feed mills under joint ventures using imported technology.

With these efforts India will emerge as one of the major producers of farm-raised shrimp in a few years time.

Deep Sea Fishing

The 200-mile Indian EEZ covers an area of nearly 2.02 million sq. km with an estimated yield potential of 4.5 million tons. Of this, nearly 50% is reported to be within the coastal area up to a depth of 50 m, about 1.71 million tons in the off-shore areas between the 50 m and 200 m depth zones, and the balance in the oceanic areas beyond 200 m.

Deep sea fishing makes available a number of commercially important species which are exportable, but are presently unexploited.

Currently the inshore waters are exploited to a greater extent while the offshore and the deep sea resources are left untapped.

Currently about 157 deep sea fishing vessels are operating in the waters around the Indian subcontinent. The majority are small vessels, having an overall length of 20 to 25 metres, designed for shrimp trawling. However, the industry is now considering larger vessels of 30 meters above, with more powerful engines of 550 HP and upwards, designed as stern trawlers and/or long-liners, to exploit non-shrimp resources such as deep sea lobster, crab, squid, cuttlefish, tuna, etc. Deep sea fishing is one of the priority sectors identified by the Government for stepping up India's exports. It is only recently that the country ventured into deep sea fishing operations for non-shrimp resources and therefore has yet to attain expertise in such commercial operations.

Under the Deep Sea Fishing Policy of the Government of India, new vessels may be acquired:

a) by placing orders at Indian


b) by import under the General

Import Policy,

c) by import under the 100%

Export Oriented Unit Scheme,

d) joint ventures with foreign



The vessels to be acquired should not have devices for shrimp fishing and they should not be fitted with outriggers. "Bull" or pair trawling will also not be permitted.

Import of second-hand vessels less than 8 years old is permitted.

Vessels are also allowed to be acquired by charter from overseas, and the terms and conditions subject to which such permission is granted will be announced by Government from time to time. Generally, proposals by Indian companies for chartering of foreign fishing vessels are expected to lead to setting up of joint ventures in India within a specified time frame and to ensure this, applicants will have to provide a security deposit. The catches obtained by the vessels may be shared between the Indian company and the foreign owner, so that the Indian company's share is not less than 20%, valued at the prevailing international market price.

Transfer of technology to Indian entrepreneurs is encouraged in deep sea fishing. Joint ventures between Indian entrepreneurs and overseas firms providing technical and/or financial collaboration are therefore permitted. Joint venture companies may have up to 40% of the equity capital held by the foreign collaborator with freedom to repatriate dividends and capital. Vessels may be acquired by such companies under lease.

A good number of proposals for joint venture and/or chartering of deep sea fishing vessels are currently being processed. Besides, a number of Indian entrepreneurs are trying to import/construct these large vessels for fishing tuna, squid, etc. In the next three to five years, a large number of deep sea fishing vessels are expected to be in operation in India landing substantial quantities of exportable varieties of seafoods.

Value Added Items for Export

India is also concentrating on processing and packing of value added items of seafoods for export. The entrepreneurs are encouraged to put up processing plants like IQF units for value added items by getting adequate subsidies on the cost of machinery and equipment. In the last three years as many as 26 units were geared to produce value added items for export. They were well received by the export markets including the USA, Japan and Western Europe.

Higher Growth Envisioned

The main export markets for Indian seafoods are Japan, the USA and Western Europe in that order. The present level of India's seafood exports is Rupees 6,000 million (about $400 million). By increasing the production of farm raised shrimp, exploiting the deep sea resources and diversifying the export production towards value added products, seafood earnings are expected to rise to Rupees 15,000 million by 1994-95, the end of the 8th Plan period.

PHOTO : Workers at an Indian plant assemble tray packs of frozen shrimp for export.

PHOTO : Hatcheries like this one are, so far, unable to keep up with demand for shrimp larvae for

PHOTO : aquaculture.

V. RAMALINGAM, Resident Director Marine Products Export Development Authority Trade Promotion Office, New York
COPYRIGHT 1990 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
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Author:Ramalingam, V.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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