First, Kerala promoted homestead tourism, where people in small towns and villages were encouraged to play hosts to visitors who wanted an authentic Kerala experience.
Now, the state’s government has decided that the next big thing for rural households looking to make a little extra is ornamental fish.
Aquariums are the biggest buyers of such fish; around $4.5 billion worth of ornamental fish are bought every year.
The Kerala government has tied up with a UK-based consultancy firm, Aqua Resolve Services, to help it become a strong player in the global ornamental fish business. The state even plans to pitch itself as the global export hub for ornamental fish. Singapore is currently the world’s largest exporter of ornamental fish.
As per plans drawn up by the Fisheries Resource Management Society (Firma), a government body, satellite fish farms will outsource rearing of newly born fish to households in coastal villages and towns around Kannoor, Alappuzha, Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam. The households will rear fish in water bodies that are typically part of Kerala homesteads or in fish tanks. The satellite fish farms will buy back the fish at a fixed price after three or four months.
The government has identified nine large fish farmers with 10-15 acre holdings to set up the satellite fish farms. It will also set up three such farms on its own, said A. Gopalakrishnan Nair, executive director, Firma. Firma and Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) are working together on the project to rear ornamental fish. “We expect to have at least 150 stake holders in the business over the next three years”, said G. Unnikrishnan, a manager with KSIDC.
Floating stock: The Kerala government has decided that the next big thing for rural households looking to make a little extra is rearing ornamental fish. Mint Photo (Harikrishna Katragadda)
Aqua Resolve Services will train all stake holders of the new company, including homestead farm owners, in breeding, handling and rearing of exotic ornamental fish. It will also supply high quality breeding stock, arrange for technology transfer, design the satellite farms, and provide farmers with international market links.
The Rs20 crore project envisages setting up of an aqua technology park for integrated fish breeding units, laboratories for quality testing and quarantine facilities and conditioning ponds for fish where they will be kept before they are exported. The park, to come up near the Kochi International Airport, will also be a platform for the state to exhibit its rich and varied aqua life and seek newer global markets, Gopalakrishnan said.
With rising demand from the US, Gulf and the European Union countries for ornamental fish, the state government is hoping that its large water bodies with high quality water and abundance of fish will gain it an easy entry into the lucrative business.
Unnikrishan said work on the project is expected to start in September. “We expect it to take 15 months to commission the project and are hoping to export a first consignment of five million fish to markets in Japan, the US and Europe by end-2008”, said Nair.