Shrimp farming in the coastal region is widespread. But landlocked Haryana in the northern part of the country too is fast emerging as a State that is offering farmers, facing low productivity due to salinity, a profitable alternative in shrimp culture. Despite its dependence on Southern and Eastern States for sourcing of seeds, feed and export, the profit has risen ten times for the farmers.

“The net return from one acre in growing two crops a year was ₹40,000-50,000 provided the prices and weather were all favourable. From one shrimp crop a year, the profit is between ₹4 lakh and ₹5 lakh,” said Gurdeep Singh, 47, of Bangu village in Sirsa district, the top producer in Haryana, contributing half of the State’s shrimp production.

Singh, now into his third year in shrimp (prawn) farming, has five ponds of one acre each. He wants to expand the area at a later stage as it requires a lot of caring and even having some technical knowledge from the farmer’s part to be successful. Singh, who started off with two acres, has motivated farmers in surrounding areas so much that 100 acres have been brought under shrimp farming during 2022-23. Even farmers from adjoining districts of Rajasthan and Punjab are coming there to take up shrimp farming in leased land.

The cost of land under lease for 10 years, with provision to increase it by 5 per cent every year, is now ₹40,000-50,000 per acre, same as was for basmati rice in Sonepat district in Haryana.

“For 15 acres, I had paid ₹3 lakh as lease rent a few years back and now it is not available below ₹13 lakh,” said Darshan Singh, another farmer of Raghuana village in same district who is now doing the shrimp farming in 66 acres, out of which only five acres are his own land. He said if the pond size is more than an acre, he takes one crop as there is the issue of getting skilled labour.

Multifold increase in land

Before August 2020, when Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) was launched, Sirsa had only 26 acres under shrimp. Now the area has reached to over 1,200 acres. Under the scheme, farmers get 40 per cent subsidy from the project cost fixed at ₹14 lakh per hectare, which includes ₹8 lakh for infrastructure development and ₹6 lakh for input costs. The subsidy is 50 per cent in the case of SC/ST and women farmers.

“It is not the subsidy alone that motivated us, but the support from the local officials that helped us to take this risk,” Darshan said, adding the subsidy was even higher at 50 per cent and the project cost was also ₹25 lakh under some earlier schemes.

The district fishery officer in Sirsa, Jagdish Chandra, has helped the farmers a lot, besides motivating them.

“There are three types of land here. One where the groundwater is saline and the agriculture crop is not suitable to give normal yield. Second is some wet lands which are left barren as no crop can be taken and third is desert land which has little scope of water retaining capacity,” Chandra said. Laying a layer of polythene sheet in each pond in both wet land and desert land has helped farmers to grow shrimp, he said and admitted that it is an extra cost which has to be met every 5-6 years.

Issues

Interestingly, farmers are not complaining about anything except electricity bill and insurance. Currently they pay electricity at ₹4.75/unit which they feel should be around ₹2/unit. Besides, they want coverage under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana.

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Shrimp farmers said that apart from state government, they also get technical assistance from seed companies, mostly hatcheries in southern India, through their local representatives. As shrimp seeds reach Delhi via air cargo and then immediately transported to the site by van, farmers plan it such that they can put the seeds in the pond in early morning or maximum before 7 am.

“It is a known fact that shrimp farming can happen either in marine or freshwater environment. But the growth in Haryana proves that it can also be done successfully in non-coastal saline land,” said Chandra.

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