Fall in prices of inland fish varieties hits farmers

K. Saseendran, a fish farmer, in his farm at Thekkumthara in Wayanad.

K. Saseendran, a fish farmer, in his farm at Thekkumthara in Wayanad. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A sharp decline in prices of inland fish varieties and increasing input costs have landed thousands of aqua farmers in the State in a fix.

K. Saseendran, a marginal farmer at Thekkumthara, started freshwater aquaculture in 2002 by depositing nearly 150 fingerlings of Cyprinus carp, Labaeo rohita, and grass carp in a small pond. His first stint failed, primarily because of lack of technical know-how.

He did not give up, and the very next year he deposited nearly 200 fingerlings of the same varieties in the pond. This time, he was well directed by Fisheries officials. He could harvest nearly three quintals of fish.

Gradually, he expanded the venture and reared eight species of edible fish and 14 species of ornamental ones in 12 ponds on his three-and-a-half acre land. Now, it has come down to just three species of edible and three varieties of ornamental fish after the venture incurred losses.

“Inland aquaculture was a lucrative business for many farmers in the district two years ago. Now, it has proven a huge loss owing to import of inferior-quality inland fish varieties from Andhra Pradesh,” Mr. Saseendran, also a State-level award winner in inland fisheries, said.

“We used to get ₹300 to ₹400 per kg for carp varieties and ₹350 to ₹450 for Tilapia. Now, we are getting just ₹90 to ₹100 a kg,” he said.

The price of fish feed went up from ₹30 a kg to ₹40. Most farmers ventured into fish farming after taking loans from banks. But they are not in a position to repay the loans, Abdul Rasheed, a fish farmer at Pozhuthana, said.

If the government bans the import of inferior freshwater fish varieties from other States, farmers will get remunerative prices for the produce, he added.

While Milma and other milk cooperatives helped dairy farmers by providing incentives during the pandemic, Matsyafed is yet to lend a hand to inland fish farmers, Mr. Saseendran said.

When the Fisheries Department launched the Matsya Samrudhi project in 2009, there were only 400 farmers in the sector. Now, around 5,000 farmers are engaged in aquaculture in Wayanad alone. The farming area also went up from 20 to 400 hectares.

According to data with the Fisheries, as many as 51,968 families depend on inland aquaculture for livelihood.

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Printable version | Aug 19, 2022 10:09:27 am |