A farmer perspective for doubling aqua farmers’ income


Dr._Manoj_SharmaWould you please share with our readers the present scenario of Shrimp production in India? Also, with news of another lockdown, how the industry is preparing not to face the same issues as that earlier?
On the production side, COVID-19 only delayed the cycle by a few months but it badly impacted the processing industry and export markets. While production was impacted due to issues in the seed quality and disease outbreaks. As per 2021 figures, Indian production is already down by 20-23%.Though major producers like Andhra Pradesh and Odisha are producing in full fledge but Gujarat production can be reduced up to 40%.
Andhra Pradesh is producing more than 70% of total Indian production. The state has a better industry infrastructure and hence lesser seed and feed cost compared to the other states. The cost of shrimp production in Gujarat is 60-70 Rs/kg higher compared to Andhra Pradesh. When export rates were impacted during the first wave of the pandemic, Andhra Pradesh farmers still could make money but that was not the case with Gujarat farmers. Hence, Gujarat farmers decided for lower production.
In the ongoing situation of the second wave of COVID-19 which is much more infectious, I don’t think primary factors like seed, feed, and other logistics issues will again be there. But farmers are concerned if there will be a market for their produce or not. As earlier also the major setback was our dependency upon exports, especially to China and the US where we were supplying 75% of our exports and both markets were majorly impacted due to the pandemic.
But this time situation should remain better due to increased online sales in the international markets which is shifted from HoReCa and better consumer awareness on the nutritional benefits.
Can you please share how Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund and Pradhan Mantri Matasaya Sampada Yojna (PMMSY) can help in developing the Indian aqua sector?
Until now, the sector has achieved the number one shrimp producer or exporter position in the world on its own. But we are thankful to the Indian government to bring their attention to this sector.
The objective of this scheme is to double the farmers’ income by doubling production and exports. I would like to share my perspective as a farmer, When I started my career, Gujarat government had a policy of giving 5-hectare land to a trained technical person at a minimal lease amount of 1000 Rs/hectare but today it is highly competitive in terms of the land cost. Schemes such as PMMSY can be very useful if it opens the untapped resources like freshwater, brackish water, inland or marine which need a single national policy of land lease for the fisheries sector.
Also, if we analyze the previous schemes which have not been successful, it is majorly revolving around the subsidy which need to be completely discontinued. There should be a better provision to provide financial assistance with lesser interest (maybe 5% or less) with reasonable mortgage period, special aquaculture economic zone (AEZ) like tax holidays, which can bring actual benefit to aqua farmer community.
Many international markets are protecting their farmers with restricted trade. India has also taken that stand for its farmers, but what would be your feedback to the government for improved domestic demand?
We are the second populous country in the world with huge consumption of chicken and other meat products within the country. I feel there is a potential for shrimp and aquaculture as well. Though we do not have proper data, but India is consuming 14 MMT of freshwater fish which again proves the market potential.
The success story of shrimp exports is majorly owned by MPEDA which promoted Indian shrimp in the world market. But during this pandemic, we have realized the vulnerability of the export markets, I feel if MPEDA and NFDB take the domestic market as their top priority and allocate Rs 100-200 crore budget to advertise in the domestic market and promote the benefits of white meat, it can be a big game-changer.
I invested in zhingalala, as I see the potential in the domestic market where 80% of the inland population don’t know about shrimp and the right procedure to cook it. The restaurant like ours can fill such a gap but it doesn’t fit into any scheme. Why the policymakers ignored the domestic market which can originally help to create Atam Nirbhar Bharat?
You mentioned in one of the webinars how Mayank Aquaculture is working in a different manner with the aim of producing shrimp in the off-season. Please share some more details and also your advice for other farmers.
I started with scratch and observed many trends in these years in Gujarat like the rise or fall of monodon, entry of vannamei, and its exponential growth due to proper planning and master mapping of brackish water land by state fisheries and MPEDA. The major boost in shrimp farming is due to single window land policy by the Gujarat government.
But in the year 2013-15, after observing a massive growth and success of vannamei, a haphazard production was started without considering the carrying capacity of the system. The downfall in 2021 is due to this negative carrying capacity which resulted in more bacterial load, pathogenic load, etc. To grow PL-8 into 30 gm we need 120 days period and back in 2017, a slight impact of running mortality was observed after 80-85 days but that effect aggravated in the next two years to the extent that farmers started to face troubles just at 70-75 days of shrimp culture.
To overcome this, recently I developed a state-of-the-art multiphase indoor hatchery and nursery unit with 7-step water filtration system to ensure complete biosecurity. It is the first multi-species hatchery to be approved by the Coastal Aquaculture Authority.
Last year, I started a trial in a three-phase manner. The first phase with PL 4-15 then PL 15-35 in a separate shed with a complete bio secured water filtration system which resulted in robust seeds and assured quality as any vertical disease eruption could be traced in 30-35 days. In the last phase, when PL 35 is shifted to a well-prepared water pond, it will grow very smoothly in next 50 days with zero water exchange to reach 15-18 grams weight ensuring guaranteed money to the farmers.
Another benefit, to rear in 75-80 days for 20-25 grams of shrimp, is it offers savings in feed, water quality management, and other expenses like electricity, fuel consumption, etc., and hence better efficiency. The biggest benefit is growing two crops in a year. After reducing four months of winter when shrimp doesn’t grow, Gujarat farmers stocking with PL 8 cannot plan two crops but with this system, two crops can be easily planned. Multiphase nursery systems can be a game-changer in shrimp farming. I urge the farmers to produce in the off-season for better profitability and sustainability.
Can you please brief me about the role of Gujarat Aquaculture Association in developing Indian Aquaculture?
In the year 1994, I started my career in Surat by selling Narmada fresh water prawn seeds to the farmers in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Rajasthan. Inspired by Dr. Kurian’s story of revolutionizing the Indian dairy sector, I then started giving technical advice to farmers like Pradeep Navik, Hari Bhai, Kamlesh Gupta, and Vasant Safri – this group of five became a catalyst in introducing shrimp farming as a commercial activity in Gujarat. Today we are a group of almost 600 farmers with a single motive of doing shrimp farming in a sustainable way.
In 2005, Gujarat Aquaculture Association was registered. Gujarat Feed Dealers Association is a sub-association in which well-established farmers supply seed and feed to smaller farmers. This is a very unique model in India rather in Asia where farmers after becoming progressive farmers lead smaller and upcoming farmers. The self-funded group with Rs 5 Lakh has reached a turnover of Rs 2200 crore. The association is doing a phenomenal contribution to rural farmers’ development in south Gujarat.
Think Grain Think Feed Interview with Dr. Manoj Sharma, Shrimp Farmer & Aqua Expert