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Post-pandemic Revival of the Aquaculture Sector

20 Oct 2020

India is the second largest fish producer in the world with a total production of 13.7 million metric tonnes in 2018-19. Shrimp comprises the majority share (75%) of India’s aquaculture share. The fisheries sector in India has been growing impressively with an average annual growth rate of 10.88% from 2014-15 to 2018-19. In fact, fish production in India stood at an all-time high of 137.58 lakh metric tonnes during 2018-19 and has registered an average annual growth of 7.53% during the last 5 years. The export of marine products stood at 13.93 lakh metric tonnes and valued at Rs 46,589 crore during 2018-19. With 90% of the produce being exported to countries such as USA, Europe and China, the Indian aquaculture sector is heavily dependent on exports.

However, since the last six months, the fisheries and aquaculture sector has been facing severe losses and farming activities in the sector have slowed down considerably due to the pandemic-induced lockdowns. According to the recent CII-FACE report ‘Aquaculture Scenario’, hatcheries lost about 3.5 billion shrimp seeds immediately after the lockdown while an estimated production of 5 billion shrimp was aborted. According to the August report by Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA), aquaculture farmers in Kerala lost Rs 308 crore due to the lockdowns.

The Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) scheme, released in May 2020, is a scheme to bring about Blue Revolution through sustainable and responsible development of fisheries sector in India. It aims at accelerating development of the fisheries sector in India by focussing on critical gaps in fish production and productivity, quality, technology, post-harvest infrastructure and management, modernisation and strengthening of value chain, traceability, establishing a robust fisheries management framework and fishers’ welfare. The scheme has been approved at a total estimated investment of Rs 20,050 crore to be implemented over a five-year period from FY 2020-21 to FY 2024-25.

There definitely exists a huge opportunity for India to capture a major share of the global market through exports. This can be achieved by developing deep-sea fishing, mariculture, inland fisheries and aquaculture. However, production needs to be maintained through the steady supply of seed, feed and other inputs. The CII study has submitted immediate, short-term as well as long-term recommendations for improving India’s export potential in the global aquaculture market. 

Short Term Recommendations

Reduce power tariffs to Rs 4.50 per unit to improve viability
Consider giving a feed subsidy of Rs 10 / kg and import duty exemption for feed additives, supplement and premixes
Financial support for the aquaculture farming community can be provided through the creation of a Bridge fund
Provide equivalent status to MSMEs as it will allow the credit guarantee funds to trust the MSME scheme to be applicable to aquafarmers

Long Term Recommendations

Greater focus on R&D
Environment-friendly aquaculture and inland fisheries zone
End-to-end cold chain infrastructure
Creation of aquaculture desks in target countries  

While exports have been impacted post the lockdowns, the domestic demand for aqua products has more or less remained the same and with definite interventions, it can be accelerated. According to the CII-FACE report, some of the steps that need to be taken urgently for improving domestic contribution are:  

Strengthening cold supply chain facility for movement and storage of product
Country-wide education program for consumers and producers on anti-biotic produce
Building rail-based hub infrastructure to handle fresh chilled products and transport via trains.
Development of Modern Whole Sale and Retail Market
Introduction of “Fish Marks” under FSSAI to ensure the quality of product

The recommendations are aimed at resolving factors such as availability of liquidity, logistics, demand and supply of raw materials etc by enhancing fish production and productivity through expansion, intensification and diversification.

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