Aquaculture in India has experienced tremendous growth and the country is currently the second largest aquaculture producer in the world. India produced around 9 million tonnes of freshwater fish and 0.8 million tonnes of shrimp in 2019, employing around 10 million people. About 12.8 percent of the total animal protein consumed in India comes from freshwater fish.
Farmed fish and shrimp generated $ 16 billion in 2019. The $ 5 billion shrimp industry is focused on exports, while the $ 11 billion farmed fish industry is driven by domestic consumption. Despite being the second largest producer of shrimp in the world, the market is more traditionally driven, with little value-added processing.
Aquaculture continues to grow faster than any other major food production sector. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has hampered the progress of the Indian aquaculture industry and disrupted the value chain in domestic and global markets. This resulted in reduced demand from processors and reduced producer prices by 20 to 30 percent. This combination created panic among farmers and – as they scrambled to harvest their fish and shrimp – flooded the market at a time of low demand in March and April. The government of Andhra Pradesh has stepped in to support farmers by introducing minimum prices and exempting aquaculture-related activities from the lockdown. While this brought some relief, it set the industry back from its progressive nature.
The Covid really spread in March, the traditional period of peak shrimp storage. However, due to weak demand and low producer prices, this has significantly reduced summer harvest stocks and some predict that the country’s shrimp production will drop by 40 percent (from 800,000 tonnes to 500,000 tonnes). tonnes) this year. Various surveys suggest that the Indian shrimp industry could suffer huge losses.
The Covid-19 has not only affected production volumes but also all links in the value chain. This has provided a timely opportunity for the industry to rethink their production methodologies, supply chain infrastructure, technology adoption, and market frameworks.
The main issues to be addressed are the prevalence of unscientific farming practices, low inclusion of technology, and disproportionate (shrimp market) over-reliance on exports, which account for over 90 percent of sales. This makes the industry more vulnerable to crises such as the Covid pandemic and also puts more pressure on farmers and their livelihoods. Even a slight change in demand in export markets also reduces the effects on Indian producer prices.
Covid has catalyzed digital transformation in all sectors and we believe that the positive digital transformation of the aquaculture value chain would make Indian aquaculture more resilient. To bring resilience, we should start by making the industry components strong enough to withstand minor fluctuations.
If we dig deeper, all the risks center on the producers, the production methods and the market. To make Indian aquaculture resilient, the starting point is to make these three components resilient. This is where I propose the 3R-PPM model, (Producers, Production methods and Market), as a solution to transform Indian aquaculture.
Components of 3R-PPM
- Access to formal finance and insurance – eliminates reliance on informal loans and the creation of credit profiles for farmers.
- Platform sharing / crowdsourcing – sharing expensive farming tools within a community to make technology accessible and affordable.
- Motivation in emerging markets: creation of efficient upstream and downstream sectors, accessibility to technical knowledge, strengthening of the post-harvest value chain.
- Creation of sustainable livelihoods – encouraging entrepreneurship, creation of employment opportunities and gender inclusion.
Resilient production methods
- Real-time problem detection and analysis capabilities – migration from ancestral intelligence to artificial intelligence.
- Practice Packages (PoP) – scientific methods that guide farmers from storage to harvest to achieve production efficiency and embrace sustainability.
- Technology adoption – providing awareness, training and affordability of technology platforms and facilitating data-driven decision making.
- Stimulate domestic consumption – create a strong market by promoting local consumption in non-coastal areas, reduces excessive dependence on exports.
- Shift to value added – move from a simple raw producer to value added players with a strong focus on value added products in export markets.
- Accelerate e-commerce – creating and promoting fish and shrimp through e-commerce and reaching a wider audience.
- Strengthening the downstream value chain (including traceability and cold storage chains).
These improvement strategies must be injected throughout the sector in a balanced way, from the transformation of production methodologies to the redefinition of the value chain. Indian aquaculture has set itself an ambitious goal of doubling production in five years. To spread from the current stage, the industry would need to take a 360-degree approach to dealing with each of the listed subcomponents. These components are linked to the outlook of the industry and lead the entire industry towards sustainability. To take such a leap, it takes an effort from government agencies, TPOs and farmers’ unions, private entities, startups and policy makers to work together. 3R-PPM can empower industry stakeholders through technology and lay a formidable foundation for the sustainable evolution of the industry.
*Aquaconnect is part of the Hatch portfolio, but The Fish Site retains editorial independence.