Kochi: The government is likely to approve the cultivation of the exotic vannamei (white) shrimp in a move that could increase its production in India. A decision on this could be made as early as this week, according to a representative of the Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI).
The country’s shrimp production has stagnated at around 150,000 tonnes a year and India’s aquaculture industry has been demanding the introduction of the vannamei variety, which will help it reduce costs and increase production. According to A.J. Tharakan, a member of the board and former national president of SEAI, the commerce ministry discussed the issue with some exporters last week and has decided to seek the views of the agriculture ministry.
Cost-effective: India’s shrimp production has stagnated at around 150,000 tonnes annually. The introduction of the ‘vannamei’ (white) variety, will help the country reduce costs and increase production.
“The agriculture ministry appears to be in favour of introducing the new variety. It will draw the guidelines at this week’s meeting (of the National Development Fisheries Board, or NDFB),” said Tharakan. NDFB is responsible for the management of India’s fishery resources. It is scheduled to meet in Kochi later this week and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar is expected to attend the meeting.
India produces and exports the black tiger variety of shrimps, which involves high costs and low productivity. In contrast, vannamei shrimps cost Rs90 per kg to produce— half the cost of the black tiger variety. While farmers can produce 20 tonnes of medium and small vannamei shrimp per ha, they can produce 2-3 tonnes of black tiger shrimp.
“The government needs to take a cue from Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and China,” Tharakan said, listing the countries that dominate the vannamei trade. China produces 650,000 tonnes of vannamei shrimp every year, Thailand, 450,000 tonnes, Indonesia 400,000 tonnes and Vietnam 350,000 tonnes. Worldwide, vannamei shrimps account for more than 90% of the total shrimp production.
The government has so far given permission to two Andhra Pradesh-based firms, Sharat Seafood Pvt. Ltd and BMR Hatcheries Ltd, to introduce this exotic variety on an experimental basis. They were given permission in 2003 and Prasad Reddy, MD of Sharat Seafood, said the results have been?encouraging.
The Kochi meeting will discuss ways to curb the use of antibiotics in shrimp farms. Last year, several shrimp consignments exported from India were rejected by Japan and Europe on account of the presence of antibiotic residues.
The government wants all aquaculture farms to be registered with the Coastal Aquaculture Authority (Caa), a body under the agriculture ministry, by the end of this month to regulate aquaculture activities and help protect coastal environment. Caa will monitor the farms and take action against farmers using antibiotics to prevent the spread of diseases among shrimps.