: Prawn culture industry - riddled with low international prices and unilateralism of export syndicates - has sought the intervention of the government to provide a remunerative environment for its continued sustenance.
In the wake of abysmal fall in international market price for shrimps, Tamil Nadu Coastal Aquaculture Farmers Federation (TANCAFF) under the aegis of Prawn Farmers Federation of India(PFFI) met here recently to place a charter of demands that would help remedy the export environment and create a domestic market. Shrimp culture has seen a downslide from when it started, says V.Balasubramaniam, General Secretary, PFFI. International market price was around Rs.450 per kilogram in the nineties, but it has been slashed by half today. However, input costs, including seeds (prawn seeds), feed, tilling and ploughing, and labour has hiked manifold, rendering the process unviable without adequate government support.
Absence of market intelligence has placed aquaculture at the mercy of export syndicates. The price offered by syndicates hovered around Rs.200-Rs.225 per kilogram, which was lower than the cost of production of Rs.250 per kilogram.
The lapse was on the part of MPEDA (Marine Products Export Development Authority), which was the nodal agency for aquaculture and also that of the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB), say federations.
The international market price was available in the open domain. MPEDA would just have to collate that information and put it up for prawn federations at least on a weekly basis, so that the Indian produce is not undervalued. Such critical market intelligence would insulate prawn culture from eventual crisis. Lack of vision on the part of MPEDA and NFDB has affected aqua culture at large, say federations.
The prawn produce was being exported as a commodity without value addition at a low price. While, Japan picks it up and re-exports it as value added product. MPEDA should step in for value addition, and provide the necessary impetus for higher exports, says Mr.Balasubramaniam.
Prawn quality hinges on timely harvest, and in the absence of remunerative prices and cold storage, prawn farmers were affected, says Govindaraj of TANCAFF.
Among the failures is the lack of government lobbying for the prawn culture industry, believe aqua farmers. Mr.Balasubramaniam views it in terms of “potential vis-à-vis output”. Smaller countries like Thailand have tremendous output, while India with highest potential has low output.
These countries enjoy the lobbying support from their respective governments in fetching in higher export price. He also sees it as a ‘marketing failure’ on the part of the MPEDA.