Agri Business

Vannamei farming: Kerala poses a new opportunity

Our Bureau Kochi | Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on November 18, 2015

B Madhusoodana Kurup, Vice-Chancellor, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies.

Kerala’s fish farmers were too late in taking up Vannamei shrimp culture, even though this particular variety was introduced in India in 2009. The result: other coastal States have gone far ahead in reaping the benefits of Vannamei, the most sought-after prawn species in the overseas seafood market. Of late, the fish farming community in the State has come forward to experiment with Vannamei culture, thanks to the initiatives of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (Kufos) which conducted a demonstration at its research centre in Puthuvypeen near here. According to B Madhusoodana Kurup, Vice-Chancellor, the demonstration farming was a success given the response from farmers seeking license from the Coastal Aquaculture Authority to do it. He spoke to BusinessLine about these new initiatives as well as the steps taken to alleviate the concerns of farmers in adapting this shrimp culture. Edited excerpts:

Why was there a concern among Kerala farmers about Vannamei? What steps has Kufos taken to alleviate it?

The fishing community was apprehensive because of the false propaganda that its introduction in aquaculture would be a threat to local species. However, Kufos, through the trial farming, was able to prove that farming of this species can take place by following the norms prescribed by Coastal Aquaculture Authority, like creation of bio-fencing, total isolation of farming areas from the natural waters and specific water management protocols. Can you give a brief on Vannamei shrimps and its potential in overseas markets?

Vannamei continued to be a major export earner in India’s seafood export basket in the last few years due to its competitiveness vis-à-vis black tiger. Of the 357,505 tonnes of seafood exports in 2014-15, it constituted 220,000 tonnes compared to 175,000 tonnes in the previous fiscal. This has helped the export sector to gain substantially from markets such as the US and South-East Asian countries.

Vannamei costs $2.29/kg to produce, which is only half the production cost for other Indian species. Farmers can produce 20 tonnes of small to medium shrimps per hectare. With diseases still ravaging black tiger farms, the survival rate of shrimp in most of farms is about 40 per cent. However, vannamei’s survival rate is close to 95-98 per cent.

What is the current status of Vannamei farming in India?

The total production in 2014 was around 350,000 tonnes and it is estimated that this would go up to 500,000 tonnes by this year end. There has been a considerable increase in the area used for farming. Of the one lakh hectares, only 20 per cent was covered by Vannamei in 2009.

This has gone up last year with 80,000 hectares used for farming surpassing 70,000 hectares for black tiger. But the contribution of Kerala was miniscule. This year, it is estimated there is likely to be an increase by 20 per cent in production. The shrimp aquaculture production during 2014-15 registered 4,34,558 tonnes and of this, Vannamei was 40 per cent and black tiger production remained stagnant. Achieving Vannamei production at 50,000 tonnes by 2020, Kerala can contribute 8-10 per cent of all-India production.

Of late, there were reports that Vannamei farming in India is losing its sheen. In this situation, how do you propose to go forward?

A resistance has already been witnessed in the country in Vannamei farming in terms of growth with farmers unable to get the desired size and quantity. This may be due to factors such as spurious seeds, high density stocking, climatic changes or stunted growth. Due to disease of early mortality syndrome, there was a reduced supply amidst surging global demand.

This has forced some hatcheries to export smaller counts which resulted in spurious seeds and broods hitting the markets. All these would be detrimental to the industry in future.

Given this scenario, Kerala poses a new opportunity unlike other coastal States where Vannamei cultivation started much earlier. The recent issues have helped Kerala understand the intricacies associated with this species, especially the need for SPF brood-stock and a bio-secure environment for culture.

Published on November 18, 2015
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