As part of the Food and Agri Week 2020, a virtual conference on Sustainable, Technology Led and Responsible Development of the Fisheries Sector was organized by the Confederation of the Indian Industry on October 19, 2020.
The Inaugural session, Challenges Overview, was chaired by Mr. Ramakanth Akula, Conference Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of The Water base Ltd.
Mr. Tarun Shridhar, Former Secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying, Government of India said that fisheries and aquaculture has never had it so good. He said that the Pradhan Mantri Matysa Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) is a bonanza for aquaculture and the focus is now on the Fishery sector and that the stakeholders should make use of this opportunity. He listed two major concerns that require government’s attention: (1) lack of reliable data on aquaculture and fisheries; and (2) the focus on doubling the production and farmer income should be matched by equal or more focus on increasing consumption of aquatic products within India. .
The Chief Guest, Dr Rajeev Ranjan, Secretary – Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying, GOI, said that data collection for the fisheries segment was challenging. It is important to know how many people depend on the sector. Schemes and policies are planned based on statistics but there is not enough statistical data available for inland fisheries. India showed 10-12% growth in the last 5-6 years in the fishery sector. Fishery export value was US 18 billion in 2019. CII has very good researchers to provide data on the industrial output, but similar resources for reliable data collection and compilation in fish production do not exist now. They plan to come up with a fishery handbook containing statistical data that will help in future policy planning (CII released the handbook during the event).
He said that the Prime Minister has taken keen interest in the development of the fishery sector to augment malnutrition. Fish is gaining importance as a protein source and hygienic and affordable cold chain infrastructure has to be developed. Per capita consumption can be doubled by introducing new varieties such as Pangasius and gift tilapia. Introducing clusters. Traceability, providing quality seed material, genetic improvement, expanding seaweed farming, are all ways to improve fishery production. “Wasteland to Wetland” scheme should be introduced in areas like Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and UP.
The next three sessions provided an interactive platform where industry players deliberated upon doubling the Indian Fisheries Industry in the next five years. Key policy formulators from both central and state governments discussed the recently announced INR 20,000 crore PMMSY scheme. They deliberated the implementation of policies, technologies, new innovations and on ground execution at the state level and challenges being faced for the adoption of the same.
A few of our eminent SAP members participated in these sessions and shared their valuable expertise in various segments.
Dr A Victor Suresh, President SAP, spoke in the session on the PMMSY scheme and said that the beneficiary-oriented scheme is designed to benefit small farmers and projects only. The Central Sector Scheme which envisions full central government funding lists out larger projects but many of the projects are best operated by the private sector rather than by the government itself. Also, PMMSY is largely tuned to the supply side and there are not many provisions to address the demand side. He requested the Ministry to revisit the schemes to address these two discrepancies.
Mr D. Ramraj (Past President SAP and current President of the All India Shrimp Hatcheries Association) said that currently India can produce 120 billion shrimp seed but the requirement was only 70 billion seed. He suggested species that hold promise for export in the future. Penaeus monodon that was popular until 2008 should be revived as SPF, selective grade stocks of P. monodon are available in India. Scampi, Tilapia and Pangasius also have huge potential for inland fish farmers. Tilapia fillet is in demand in the US. Food safety issues are a major concern for freshwater fish. He suggested the diversification of aquaculture species to Murrels, Catfish, Sea bass and Mullets. He emphasised that genetics plays a very critical role in aquaculture and shrimp production has increased tenfold in a decade only because of genetics and the availability of SPF Vannamei seeds.
Mr Ravi Kumar Yellanki (Past President SAP) said that it was not possible to be on track to double shrimp production this year due to the pandemic. There was no import of broodstock initially and there were disease outbreaks too. He suggested that a proper disease surveillance program be set up by the Government. Our presence in the US market is very high compared to other countries. We need to diversify. We have to convince the EU to lift bans on antibiotic residue so we can reach more markets. As far as the domestic market is concerned, we should move inland from coastal states. We have to bring in awareness for fish and fish related products.
Moderating the session on Technology Innovations for Safe and Sustainable Fisheries Management, SAP member Dr D. Ramesh remarked that technology in shrimp hatchery and farming has been indigenously improved to an enviable extent. But there is a substantial gap in breeding technology and harvest and post-harvest technology in shrimp culture which can reduce the loss and add value to the farmers efforts. Though there have been efforts going into the development of cold chain infrastructure and value addition technologies, these technologies have so far addressed the needs of the export markets only. Creation of common facilities (for example, Aquaparks as mooted in PMMSY) will provide the much-needed independence for the farmer groups to unlock values by developing their own brands. He said that investing last mile delivery technologies aimed at the demand side of the equation should improve (a) harvest quality (b) cold chain logistics, (c) ready to cook sea food which will promise food safety, increase in consumption which will ultimately result in better realisation of value by the farmer. It is equally important that we harness the potential IOT based tools which will help in production, supply chain and sustainability which will deliver quality nutrition to the end customers.