While many register for the training provided before assistance, only a few continue. Last September-October, of the 600 people who registered 50 people took up the training and not all of them took up the assistance.

Despite 50 per cent subsidy, there were very few takers for the assistance schemes for growing ornamental fish offered by The Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA).

A host of factors have led to the low number of borrowers for the schemes, which includes one scheme that has no borrower this year. The schemes provide financial assistance for establishing fish breeding units and fish marketing societies to promote an export-oriented ornamental fish sector. It aims at getting rural and urban households to augment income and link them to international trade. Organised trade in ornamental fish depends on assured and adequate demand, which was possible only by mass breeding, according to the MPEDA.

Rajakumar S. Naik, Assistant Director, MPEDA, based in Mangalore, told The Hindu that borrowers are divided into three grades and all of them get 50 per cent subsidy. Grade one borrowers could get Rs. 1.5 lakh; grade two borrowers could get Rs. 4 lakh; and grade three borrowers could get Rs. 15 lakhs.

This year, as of now, there was no borrower for grade one. For grade two, there were 30 borrowers (six from Dakshina Kannada, 11 from Uttara Kannada, and the rest from Shimoga, Bangalore, Tumkur, Mandya and Ramanagar). In 2011-12, Rs. 57 lakh was disbursed and this year, the target amount was Rs. 60 lakh and there was no upper limit.

While many register for the training provided before assistance, only a few continue. Last September-October, of the 600 people who registered 50 people took up the training and not all of them took up the assistance.

This despite informing every district of the schemes, he said.

Mangalore-based Ashwin, exporter of ornamental fish to Europe, used assistance from MPEDA. He said that people think breeding fish was easy because they could manage an aquarium at home. But breeding on a commercial scale was a different challenge. Two, the MPEDA subsidy was given only for greenfield projects. “MPEDA could have modified it a bit and allowed existing farms to take loan. That could have helped,” he said. Three, though the scheme is “decent”, there is no blanket subsidy. The subsidy is broken into components and depends on project progress. Four, borrowers are worried about marketing: though the good products get taken, for those based in villages this is a concern. Five, banks are unwilling to lend because they are not sure of the economics of the activity.

Prasanna Kumar, who has taken assistance from MPEDA, said that weather in Bangalore makes it a challenge to grow ornamental fish. He had to deal with losses because of steep temperature variations . Besides, it was not taken as a serious trade and there was need to create awareness of it, he said. Mr. Naik said that those who take up schemes must specialise so that they are able to cater to large numbers of specific fish types. They could consider setting up annual maintenance contracts (AMCs) where owners could feed fish and the entrepreneur could handle other requirements.

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