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Bengal fish production to cross 2K metric tons by 2015: ASSOCHAM

Posted on Nov 06, 02:02PM | IBNS

Apex industry body ASSOCHAM has suggested the West Bengal government to integrate a comprehensive promotional plan in its policies to spur fish production and raise the compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of production in the state to about seven per cent from the current level of about five per cent.

Growing at compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of about five per cent, fish production in the state of West Bengal may cross 2,000 metric tons mark by 2015 from the current level of about 1,800 metric tons, according to a comprehensive study on fisheries done by ASSOCHAM, released to the media on Tuesday.

West Bengal is the largest fish producing state and accounts for about 20 per cent of the total fish production of over nine million tons in India, according to the study titled 'Fisheries - A Prize Catch in Indian Export Basket,' released by ASSOCHAM.

"With appropriate incentives coupled with robust investments in infrastructure, fish production in India can grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of about seven per cent during the course of next four-five years from the current level of over 3.5 per cent CAGR," said D.S. Rawat, national secretary general of ASSOCHAM while releasing the chamber study.

"Similarly, proper storage, processing and marketing facilities together with well co-ordinated efforts for comprehensive development of fisheries sector and fishermen community would help increase fish production in West Bengal," said Mr Rawat.

Fish production in India might also cross 13 million tonnes mark by 2016, highlights the ASSOCHAM study.

"Indian marine waters are home to over 1,700 fish species including 200 commercially significant species, while the sector employs over 15 million people and fish eaters account for over half of India's total population," said Mr Rawat. "India is the second largest source of aquaculture production in the world after China. Inland fisheries, reservoirs and freshwater aquaculture are the pillars of growth, besides, floodplain lakes and wetlands, irrigation canals, saline and waterlogged areas too contribute towards rising production."

About 67 per cent of the total fish produced in India is consumed in the fresh form due to low demand for value added fish products and about six per cent is converted into fishmeal.

Processed and dried fish account for 16 per cent and seven to ten per cent frozen while a very small portion of less than one per cent is canned. With less than a million tons exported, presently domestic demand for all types of fish (including fresh and processed) is about 7.5 MT currently and is likely to cross 10 MT mark by 2016, according to the ASSOCHAM study.

Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Odisha and Tamil Nadu are other leading fish producing states in India.

Export demand is placed at eight to ten per cent of the total fish production in India. Besides, in the value terms, India's total fisheries exports are about USD 3 billion and are expected to reach about USD 4.7 billion by 2014. While, the global fish trade is estimated at USD 138 billion with China, Norway and Thailand occupying the top three slots, according to the ASSOCHAM study.

By the end of this year, the global fish production is likely to reach 157.3 MT, comprising 90 MT of capture fisheries and the balance by aquaculture. Besides, about 85 per cent of total fish production is used as food with the balance 15 per cent utilised in feed and other purposes.

Globally India's share in fisheries production is about five per cent and marine/inland fishery exports account for a meagre two per cent of the global trade in this sector, highlights the ASSOCHAM study.

Marine capture is growing at a slower pace as against the inland fish production rate of almost six per cent CAGR.

Considering an erratic and lower marine catch, ASSOCHAM in its study has suggested the government to incentivize aquaculture and inland fisheries to achieve steady to higher growth rate and offset the lower growth in marine fisheries.

Besides, despite a steady growth in fish production an average annual production per fish farmer in India is abysmally low at just two tons as against six tons per person in China.

According to ASSOCHAM bottlenecks in distribution, low annual average production together with an inadequate infrastructure including rural roads and cold storage are hampering the growth of fisheries sector in India.

"Absence of organized retail in fish trade and age-old system of fish distribution result in high wastage and spoilage, thus it is imperative to remove these hurdles as India holds significant potential to increase fish production which in-turn would lead to improving standards of living for fisher folk coupled with better realization in terms of unit value," said Rawat.

ASSOCHAM has suggested formation of a dedicated Ministry of Fisheries to deal with the major stumbling blocks in fisheries sector - multiple agencies, sluggish infrastructure and poor productivity resulting in poverty and backwardness.

In its study, the chamber has recommended setting up of a centralized coordinating agency with power to monitor, control and maintain effective surveillance and also guide the stakeholders including the fisher folk and commercial enterprises.

Besides, it would also promote and monitor training and skill development along with extension schemes for fish farming along with increasing productivity.

ASSOCHAM has further stressed upon the need for better understanding of marine ecology to protect marine resources and has called for use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) and Artificial Reefs (ARs) to promote mariculture and enhancement of the catch.

Mariculture in India is on a low key and mostly supports shrimp production, ASSOCHAM in its study has thus suggested innovating and intensifying the methods to enhance production which in turn would help increase India's share in global markets and increased foreign exchange earnings.

Areas like shrimp farming and hatchery technology, mussel/oyster farming, pearl oyster farming, pearl production, seaweed farming, marine ornamental fish breeding, lobster fattening, open sea cage culture, capture based aquaculture and others can be successfully strengthened by proper exploitation of mariculture potentials.

Besides, mariculture can also be effectively used for conservation of commercially important marine species that have declined due to over-exploitation and ecological changes, according to the ASSOCHAM study.

Though there is vast scope for increasing the yields in case of inland fisheries, lower contribution in terms of scientific inputs, seed, feed and health management have resulted in sluggish growth in aquaculture, it said.

India should leverage from its rich bio-diversity, capability for captive seed production and rearing technology to tap the growing popularity of ornamental fish which has a wide spectrum of exotic species in this area from commercial, export potential and livelihood point of view, according to the study.

ASSOCHAM has also called for a single window system for fisheries and aquaculture in inland fisheries to work towards proper networking and consolidation to strengthen support to the sector thereby keeping a close look at the working of various agencies involved in inland and fisheries.

It said there is a need for infrastructure development by way of better fish landing and handling facilities, cold chains, storage, ice plants, refrigerated transport and other as it is imperative to process fish for longer shelf-life, better hygiene and value addition both in export and domestic markets owing to the perishability and post-harvest losses.

ASSOCHAM has thus suggested scaling up domestic fish processing capabilities as "our products have to face competition from imported items due to liberalized trade and tariff regime under the World Trade Organisation (WTO)."

Owing to lower presence in the brand market, India continues to be a low value frozen fish exporter, thus investment in processing of value added products like ready-to-eat and ready-to-serve seafood must be undertaken as global market provides lucrative opportunity in this regard.

Besides, growing domestic market also offers opportunity for such products in the fast growing retail sector.

ASSOCHAM has called for an integrated approach for conservation and development of the country's marine resources and has also recommended that care be exercised in judicious exploitation of marine resources thereby protecting the flora and fauna of the marine world.

There is a compelling need to speed up reforms that have been initiated for the benefit of fishermen and also earnestly support them in sharpening their traditional skills along with training in the modern technology, it said.

ASSOCHAM said that there is a need to nurture, protect and carefully exploit marine capture potentials as aquaculture holds immense potentials and is directly linked to food and nutritional security of the country. Besides, there is a need to asses state-wise requirement of fish seed and cater to the aquaculture needs across the country.

"To commercially exploit the fishery resources for domestic and export markets there is a need to impart proper training of latest technology and promote awareness for fisher folk needs. Besides, the industry also needs to go through the process of reengineering to be able to meet the growing needs of domestic market for processed, packed and ready to eat fish food," it said.

ASSOCHAM has also suggested that processing efficiency and quality issues need to be addressed earnestly to demonstrate the processing industry's ability and to showcase that Indian plants are following strict quality standards and globally acceptable certification.

"There is a pressing need to modernize the fish markets across the country considering that refrigerated storage, transport and handling/logistics support in the marketing centres will lead to the modernization of the marketing infrastructure."

ASSOCHAM recommended that public private partnership (PPP) should be encouraged and the plan assistance for the sector be channeled through PPP mode.

Besides, financial institutions should be encouraged to extend credit facilities for expansion and modernization of fisheries' processing sector through Ministry of Food Processing Industry (MOFPI) for speedy achievement of growth targets.