Bengal targets 18.5 lakh tonnes of fish production this year

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Kolkata : West Bengal, which is aspiring to be self-reliant for its fish requirements, is hopeful of meeting the fish production target of 18.5 lakh metric tonnes this year and eliminating the deficit, a state minister said on Tuesday.

"We have set a fish production target of 18.5 lakh metric tonnes this year, and last year we had a production of about 17.4 lakh metric tonne. Demand for fishes has been growing and proportionately, we are increasing our target. State had fulfilled its production target and demand last year. We are expecting to meet the target this year," State Fisheries Minister, Chandra Nath Sinha said.

The state has a deficit of 0.6 lakh tonnes while it exports 1.7 lakh tonnes of fish to other states and overseas, he said on the sidelines of Fisheries Conclave organised by CII.

Elaborating on the state's potentiality of aquafarming, Sinha said it has plenty of water bodies, about 8-10 times of what leading fish producing state Andhra Pradesh has.

Sinha said the state government is focusing on maximisation of fish production through intervention of technologies, adding water bodies under aquafarming, scientific feeding and improved managerial practices.

He also urged shareholders of different water bodies to utilise the resources for fish farming as it has been economically lucrative than other alternative uses.

According to the State Fisheries Department Principal Secretary, Ravi Inder Singh, the eastern state is accounting for around 40 per cent of the country's fish seed production and it has been growing exponentially.

Sinha, however, lamented insurers have not been forthcoming to provide insurance facilities to cultivators even after several rounds of discussion with them.

However, shrimp exports from the state are to the tune of 70,000 tonnes, earning about Rs 8,000 crore per annum, Sinha said, adding that shrimp farming utilises only 15 per cent of brackish-water resource of the state.

The Seafood Exporters Association of India's West Bengal Region President Rajarshi Banerji pointed out small land holding, high electricity tariff and expensive lease-rent structure are major bottlenecks in the expansion of shrimp production in the state and these are adding cost to the prodiction.

According to him, the cost of shrimp production in West Bengal is Rs 220-240 per kg while the same in Andhra Pradesh is Rs 180 per kg.

"The margin of our shrimp cultivators and exporters get squeezed substantially, when the prices fall in the international market," he said.