Asian aquaculture: India
In this second article we are going to explore the trends of the Indian aquaculture market.
India was the second food fish aquaculture producer in 2012 worldwide. Internally, aquaculture contributed over one third of the country’s total fish production of 9.06 million tonnes during 2012–2013. The total aquaculture production of 4.43 million tonnes was valued at US$ 3.5 billion of which carp alone was responsible for as much as 4.18 million tonnes.
Aquaculture in India has a long history, with references to fish culture in Kautilya’s Arthashastra (321–300 B.C.) and King Someswara’s Manasoltara (1127 A.D.). The traditional practice of fish culture in small ponds in eastern India is known to have existed for hundreds of years; significant advances were made in the State of West Bengal in the early nineteenth century with the controlled breeding of carp in bundhs (tanks or impoundments where riverine conditions are simulated). Fish culture received notable attention in the state of Tamil Nadu (formerly Madras) as early as 1911, and subsequently, states such as Bengal, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Baroda, Mysore and Hyderabad initiated fish culture through the establishment of Fisheries Departments and support to fishers and farmers for expansion of the sector.
Aquaculture in the past ten years has witnessed both horizontal and vertical expansion, with total production increasing from 0.37 million tonnes in 1980 to 4.43 million tonnes during 2012–2013, an increase of over 12 fold. Conventional farming practices using carp, as well as an increased emphasis on diversified culture of freshwater prawns and to some extent catfish, are important areas of growth in the freshwater aquaculture sector. Greater adoption of modern farming techniques and assured higher profit margins in carp culture over most other agricultural enterprises has attracted farmers to fish farming. Freshwater aquaculture has further witnessed diversification through the incorporation of high valued species like freshwater prawn and has increased its production from 455 tonnes in 1992 to over 30 000 tonnes in 2003.
The early 1990s witnessed a spectacular rise in farmed shrimp production with an increase from 35 500 tonnes in 1991–1992 to 82 850 tonnes in 1994–1995. Furthermore, the sector took almost 4–5 years to revive following the damage inflicted by the white spot syndrome. A cautious approach and the adoption of good management practices subsequently, helped the sector to reach a record production of 270 819 tonnes during 2012–2013 from approximately 115 826 ha area under production. A high export potential backed by an assured supply of quality seed through the establishment of large numbers of shrimp hatcheries, the availability of other critical inputs like formulated feed, easily accessed institutional finance, increased entrepreneurial involvement, the entry of several privately owned large companies and above all higher profit margins were the guiding force behind such high growth during last decade.
Aquaculture over recent years has not only led to substantial socio-economic benefits such as increased nutritional levels, income, employment and foreign exchange, but has also brought vast un-utilized and under-utilized land and water resources under culture. With freshwater aquaculture being compatible with other farming systems, it is largely environmentally friendly and provides for recycling and utilization of several types of organic wastes. Over the years, however, culture practices have undergone considerable intensification and with the possibility of obtaining high productivity levels there has been a state of flux between the different farming practices. In the brackish water sector there were issues of waste generation, conversion of agricultural land, salinization, degradation of soil and the environment due to the extensive use of drugs and chemicals, destruction of mangroves and so on. Though some of these issues posed concerns, most however, were isolated instances with the bulk of farming conforming to eco-requirements.