Towards Blue Revolution: India plans to catch the big fish of marine exports

With the creation of a separate department, Government has called for a “Blue Revolution” in the fisheries sector. The main focus of the revolution is to increase fish production, introduce new technologies, ensure food and nutritional security, generate employment, facilitate skill-development, and boost export.

Indians love fish, especially on their plates. You will be surprised to know, that, 62 per cent population of Kerala consumes fish on a daily basis. “Fish has all the nutrients, proteins and Omega fatty 3 acids and thus considered as health food. Moreover, with time, taste and food habits of consumers have diversified, coupled with increase in purchasing power. People are now adapting fish in their meals which has given the fisheries sector a big thrust in growth,” says Dr Joykrushna Jena, Deputy Director General (Fisheries Science) at Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

Significant growth in the sector

With diverse resources ranging from marine water to mountain water, the fisheries sector in India employ around 1.5 crore people for their livelihood.  It is estimated that more than 50 different types of fish and shellfish products are exported from India to 75 countries around the world. India is the second largest fish producer after China. In aquaculture too, India stands second to China with seven per cent share in global production.

According to Dr Jena, the fisheries sector has seen a significant growth in the last few decades, with a contribution of 1.1 per cent of India’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and over five per cent to the agricultural GDP. The vibrancy of the sector can be visualized by a 15 fold increase in fish production in six decades. In 1950-51 the production was 0.75 million tonne which has reached to 12.4 million tonne in 2017-2018. “In the beginning, production was largely dependent upon capture fisheries but now aquaculture practice has been cultivated at large and around more than 60 per cent fish has been produced from aquaculture or fish farming of the total fish production,” he says.

Fisheries-Contribution-in-GDP

According to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) data, overall fish production has seen an increase of about 18.86 per cent in comparison to the last three years, whereas inland fish production has registered a growth of more than 26 per cent. Combining the production of all types of fisheries (capture and culture), the total fish production in the country has reached at about 11.41 million tonnes in 2016-17.

As stated by Dr Jena, in the past, India used to stand at seventh and eighth rank in fish production, but today, with precision fish farming in the scene, (i.e. seed production, commercial-induced fish production) fish production has increased. The industry breeds more than 60 species of fish through aquaculture and commercial-induced fish.

Prominence given to the sector

The government paid heed to the sector and enacted the Indian fisheries Act of 1897. Through this act, the state governments had the responsibilities to develop fisheries as per their own rules and laws and safeguard it, thus conservation of fisheries became a principal subject. Further, the sector in India draws special attention in the planning of economy because it contributes to the national income, foreign exchange and gives employment opportunities. An exclusive economic zone of 200 mile of the sea of 2.3 million square miles is added to the national jurisdiction which is almost equal to the agricultural land in the country.

Since then, fisheries and aquaculture have developed as imperative businesses, making fish highly acceptable in the bread basket around the country. It can be a food resource for each sector of the community whether rich or poor. Providing food security to latter while delicacy for others. The annual per capita consumption of fish for the entire population is estimated at five-six kg whereas for the fish-eating population it is found to be eight-nine kg. The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly recommends consumption of 40 to 50 kg of fish per year per head, however consumption is around 4.1 kg.

Dr.-Kamalesh-Mishra

Moreover, there is a significant increase in the export of fish and fish products from India and it has become one of the largest export commodity in the agricultural sector in India. According to experts in the field, export reached to 10.27 per cent. During 2016-17, the export earnings crossed over 5 billion US dollars and ₹35,000 crores mark. In the year 2017-18, export crossed all previous records in quantity, rupee value and US $ with an increase of 21.35 per cent in quantity, 22.57 per cent in rupee value, i.e.  13.77 lakh tonnes in terms of quantity and ₹45,107 crores in value. Efforts  are  being  made  to  boost  the  export  potential  through  diversification  of products.

These exports cater to at least 70 countries, while import is nearly negligible. According to a research, in 2017-18 the marine products are largely exported to USA and South East Asia, where as exports to China the lowest. Frozen Shrimp continued to be the largest item exported and live items are the lowest exported.

Need for separate department

Till the creation of a separate department, all progress achieved in the fisheries sector had been made by the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries which was under the Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Ministry. The fishing community had demanded a separate fisheries department to resolve a host of issues and help increase production and facilitate economic prosperity.

President of All Goa Trawlers Association and owner of Jai Fisheries, Harshad Dhond, told SME Futures, that the section needs more experts to deal with complex issues related to the field rather than generalists who may be working in the department. In addition to this, aquaculture plan for XII five year plan under Planning Commission needs to adopt people with proper knowledge of all the various aspects. According to him, “Fishermen community faces challenge 365 days, we need to create a better solution-oriented infrastructure and schemes for the sector.”

The fisheries sector is indeed a traditional business sector for people especially residing near coastal areas and majority of the people involved in the profession are small scale and do artisanal fishing thus most of them are unorganised. First of all, it’s a challenge to organise them and secondly, unorganised workers are often bereft of security and health services. Most of them are uneducated, thus, lag behind in receiving help from government in terms of schemes or incentives.

Harshad-Dhond

Skill development had also become one of the road blocks in the growth of the sector. According to Dr Jena, the fisheries and aquaculture industry was mostly traditional in nature. Today, new techniques and scientific advancements has made fisheries commercial, particularly in aquaculture. Thus there is need for more skilled workers. “The sector is a profitable one; skilling people will make the sector more powerful. However, we lack support of training partners.” Until now most training programs are handled by eight ICAR institutions and don’t have many private players to extend the help. Having said that, there is need of great push in terms of highlighting entrepreneurship opportunities for this industry. Also fishing community needs specific insurance coverage schemes as they are prone to natural calamities.

Industry Reaction

During the separate department proposal, Indian equity benchmarks clocked best week of 2019. According to the Sensex and Nifty index, latter advanced 0.58 per cent 63 points to 10,894 while BSE Sensex rose to 0.59 per cent or 213 points to 35,469 showing positive sentiments in the market.

On the other hand, the industry has reacted positively on creation of the new department. Stakeholders are of the opinion that fisheries and aquaculture have witnessed vast enrichment over the years, one small division under the ministry cannot do justice to all the ongoing operations.

Exporters say that stand alone focus is a necessity of the sector especially for exporters. Dr Kamlesh Mishra, President of Orissa Chapter, Seafood Exporters Association of India says, “Now concerns of the exporters can be addressed more precisely. Presently, there is a slowdown in the export market and we need to keep up with international requirements and standards specified.”

Dr Ajay Sahai, Director General & CEO of Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) also believes that the establishment of a separate department will give boost to India’s marine exports. He says, “Marine exports which is presently hovering around 7 billion dollar may increase to 10 billion $ in two years.”

Dr.-Joykrushna-Jena

Marketing challenge

Marketing problems still prevail in the sector, the middlemen decide the price of the fish once the fishermen land up after a heavy toll in the sea. Owner of Adil Sea Foods in Mumbai, Adil Memon deals only in domestic market and acts as a commissioning agent. In reference to the issue on fish marketing, he commented, “Price fluctuation is a big issue for fishermen. For instance, in winters, due to the cold weather, fishing declines, thus, sale of frozen fish increases. Which becomes a challenge for the livelihood of fishermen”.

According to a research, fish exports are done at lesser price than domestic retail price (less than a dollar) across 42 countries. The price of high value species such as cephalopods, seers, ribbon fishes or pomfrets were 20 to 25 per cent more in domestic markets than the export prices. It is due to the fact that exporters make revenue selling more quantities rather than at competitive prices. The research further figures out that in 2014, the value of marine fish landings were estimated to be at ₹31,750 crore while it was ₹52,360 crore at the retail centres. The value increased at the landing centre was 8.10 per cent while increase at the retail centre was 12.1 per cent compared to the previous year. Experts believe there is shift in the consumption pattern with increase of high-value fish. The poor supply of fish to the domestic market can be devoid of food security.

Fish-production-In-last-3-years

Value-addition technology

Institutes like National Institute of Post-Harvest Technology and Training (NIPHATT) and Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) have been working on the development of value-added products from deep-sea non-conventional fisheries resources. However, the technologies need to be standardized at the earliest for ensuring that the value-addition process is successful and more importantly, is suitable for the industry, for commercial production at a minimum cost. Goan businessman, Dhond, is of the opinion that India is still far behind in the fisheries sector in terms of mechanized fishing. “India desperately needs new powerful vessels. In my opinion, 70 per cent of fisheries is still done by old vessels and that needs to be changed.”

National security and illegal fishing

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is also a pain for the sector. Criminal networks have been taking advantage of globalisation to expand IUU fishing operations, sometimes which adds to drug trafficking, forced labour, tax and finance crimes and even terrorist activities. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) data shows that globally IUU fishing is estimated at 15 per cent of total catches, representing a value of EUR 24 billion annually.

So far…

The Government is well aware of the potential of vast aquatic resources present in the country. Funds released during the 12th plan in 2014-15 was ₹31621 lakh under various schemes while it was ₹416.80 crore for the year 2015-16; ₹424.11 crore for 2016-17; ₹337.53 crore for year 2017-18. While the fund allocated under the blue revolution scheme increased 64 per cent from the period 2009-14 (₹1772 crore) to 2014-19 (₹2913 crore) period.

Also, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has notified the “National Policy on Marine Fisheries, 2017”, which will guide the development of marine fisheries sector for the next 10 years. Besides that, a special Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF) worth ₹7522 crore has been allocated to fill the infrastructure gaps in the sector.

Specific decisions have been taken to safeguard the interests of traditional fishermen in the area of EEZ beyond 12 nautical miles, which is regulated by the Government of India, such as, traditional fishers have been exempted from the fishing ban implemented during monsoon period in the EEZ; use of LED lights and other artificial lights for fishing as well as practice of bull-trailing or pair-trailing have been banned.

Overall, almost every state has got resources to value-add in the fisheries sector, thus making it prominent. The separate fisheries department aims to address issues faced by marginal fishers, and other stakeholders while giving the sector what it needs to take it the next level with more concentrated focus on researches, funding, better infrastructure solutions, job creation and economic growth.

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