Union Budget 2023-24: Budget should provide effective fund deployment for growth of aquaculture

Representational Image. Moneycontrol

India is the third-largest fish producing country in the world with a production of 9.6 million million tonnes (MT). The fisheries industry in India accounts for 7.96 percent of the total fish production across the globe. More than 20 million fishermen and fish farmers are primarily dependent on this sector for a source of livelihood. However, lack of basic infrastructure and sustained efforts to revive the sector has hindered its growth, and exports have been the worst hit.

Some of the key challenges faced by the industry are:

• Effective deployment of funds for the growth of the sector
• Lack of robust infrastructure solutions for efficient use of resources
• Inadequate efforts to revive aquaculture
• Lack of modern amenities in wet markets
• Lack of access to modern equipment and tools to fish farmers

The following recommendations can help the sector:

Promote aquaculture

The Budget should make allocations to promote aquaculture. Today, aquaculture in India is being practiced in traditional methods, and hence, there is limited production of produce like shrimp and baasa fish, although there is huge demand for these varieties of fish in the global markets. India exports about Rs 45,000 crore worth fish and fish products annually and about 60 percent of this revenue comes from shrimp alone. However, about 90 percent of the shrimp production in India takes place in just two states, viz. Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Despite availability of land and resources, we are unable to increase shrimp production in other states. There must be Budget allocations to set up modern aquaculture practices across the country.

Modern infra solutions in wet markets

The Budget should make allocations to build cold chain facilities in wet markets to reduce wastage and curb the practices of using chemicals to extend the longevity of fresh fish. Setting up of chillers, freezers, and facilities to store fish in organic methods in wet markets will reduce the burden on the fishermen community. This will directly yield larger profits to the fishermen.

For instance, in the Dubai Deira Waterfront Fish Market, which is one of the largest fish markets in the world, there is provision of chillers and freezers for fishermen to store their unsold fish. This ensures there is less wastage, and fishermen need not turn to chemicals and preservatives to extend the shelf life of the produce.

By building basic infrastructure, we can strive to build an entire ecosystem that does not depend on chemicals and preservatives for sales. This is an urgent need of the community and is fundamental for the growth of the industry.

Efforts towards waste reduction

Of the total production of fish in India, only about 70 percent of the yield is consumed and the rest is sent to dumps as waste. Due to lack of infrastructure and last mile connectivity challenges, about 30 percent of the yield is wasted even before it reaches the customer. We must build robust infrastructure facilities to ensure the waste reduction percentage is reduced.

Allocate natural resources for fish farming

Many countries have reserved rivers, lakes, seas, and all natural resources for aquaculture. Such areas are restricted from tourism and are exclusively dedicated to practicing aquaculture. Adopting such practices here in India will give a big leap to the aquaculture practice in India. Fishermen must be given licenses to practice marine aquaculture in natural resources like seas. With the use of technology, these practices will be beneficial for fish exports.

Boost exports of pan-ready fish, fish products

Countries like China, Taiwan makes use of various parts of Tilapia fish like its skin, head, and eyes that are considered wastage in India due to lack of factories that can convert them into by-products. Although states like Maharashtra and Gujarat have provisions to use these parts and produce commercial products, the export quantity is minimal. Fund allocation is necessary to build factories and boost businesses to produce byproducts that will further generate revenue.

Orientation programs, training workshops needed

The fishermen community in India is mostly dependent on traditional methods to practice farming. The government can uplift the community by holding workshops for right practices, making efficient use of available resources and training programmes, among others.

(The writer is COO, Co-Founder, [email protected] Views are personal)

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