The stepping up of Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) in the Budget announcement has boosted both seafood and fisheries sectors, paving the way to push up production.

The setting up of five mega integrated aqua parks would extend a new dimension in the sector with improved product quality, improvised cold chains, enhanced product diversification and commendable recreation. Kerala, being a state with enormous potential in fisheries and aquaculture, can play agreat role in fulfilling the dreams of the government towards fisheries and aquaculture development, said T Pradeepkumar, Vice-Chancellor, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (Kufos).  

G Pawan Kumar, National President, Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI), told businessline that the government’s focus on the sector is a welcome move especially when the exports had registered ₹65,000 crore business in the last fiscal. Since there is enough production capacity right now, there is no need for further investments in the aquaculture sector.

Need of the hour

However, the need of the hour is to declare aquaculture as an agriculture produce and extend Income Tax benefit to aqua farmers like their counterparts in the farming sector. Currently they are not enjoying any benefits. The extension of income tax benefits would support aqua farmers in a big way and help attract more investments to the sector and regularise the entire farming process, thereby increasing the production volume, he said.  

DV Swamy, Chairman, Marine Products Exports Development Authority (Mpeda), said that during 2022-23, India exported 17,35,286 tonnes of seafood worth $8.09 billion (₹63,969.14 crore) in FY23, which is anall-time high. However, owing to the global uncertainties, ongoing war, etc, India’s seafood exports were showing a sluggish growth during the first quarter. But the exports have started picking up now and we are confident that India will be able to achieve the export target set by the government with the increased supply of raw material produced from the aquaculture, especially through various scheme under PMMSY, he said.

T. Pradeepkumar said India is considered to be the most significant aquaculture hub of the world along with China. The budget underlines the interest of the Government to uphold the spirits of this ‘sun rise sector’ by announcing the second phase of PMMSY. The budget tries its level best to upgrade and transform the status of India from a “carp hub” to a place with more diversified programmes in aquaculture for doubling the aqua farmers’ income. “While the agriculture farmers are Annadata, the aquaculture farmers are mamsyadata (protein) and ensuring their welfare is equally important”, he said.

According to Sunil Mohammed, a fishery expert, the integrated approach to promote coastal aquaculture and mariculture would help enhance fish production and ensure livelihood of fisher-folk. This would help the fishery productions to reach global markets. Besides, the newly amended laws in the Coastal Aquaculture Authority will help achieve the targets. The setting up of integrated aqua parks would be in the right direction if it covers the entire value chain from production to consumption with global standards, he added.

Rajamanohar Somasundaram, Founder & CEO, Aquaconnect, said:  “We welcome the new sub-scheme under the PMMSY that has been announced with an investment of ₹6,000 crore to support the activities of fish vendors, fishermen, and micro and small enterprises. This investment aims to improve value chain efficiencies and expand the market, contributing significantly to the promotion of domestic market consumption. The establishment of aqua parks will play an important role in promoting the development of value-added seafood products in India. This will ultimately enhance the value realisation of Indian seafood and act as a catalyst for generating employment opportunities among coastal communities. We have been witnessing a consistent effort to improve the fisheries sector in consecutive budgets. This is an encouraging trend, and we hope to see it continue for the betterment of fishermen, aquaculture farmers, and other stakeholders in the seafood value chain.“