Agri Business

Vannamei may not be of much help to Kerala

KPM Basheer Kochi | Updated on March 12, 2015 Published on March 12, 2015


Can Kerala, once a leading exporter of (marine) prawns, repeat the success stories of the East Coast States that have in the recent times harvested benefits from large-scale commercial culture of the vannamei (white leg shrimp)? Quite unlikely, says a senior official of the Marine Products Export Development Agency (Mpeda).

The question arises against the backdrop of shrimp farmers getting excited about the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences here being allowed by the Chennai-based Coastal Aquaculture Authority to raise experimental vannamei farms. Farmers hope that this would open up for them the vast opportunities in vannamei culture. They see the permission for the Kerala varsity as a precursor to the authorities allowing them to raise vannamei farms, particularly in the central Kerala region.

Vannamei has emerged as the largest seafood item exported by the country, accounting for over 80 per cent of frozen items. Catering to a huge market in South-East Asia, the US and the EU, vannamei farms have spawned along the coasts of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Odisha over the past five years. The relatively high price in the global market has helped farmers to flourish.

However, the Mpeda official pointed out, the socio-economic situation and investment patterns in Kerala are totally different from Andhra Pradesh or Odisha. In the first place, he said, land is really scarce in Kerala. Secondly, Kerala cannot attract the kind of big money being pumped into commercial fish farming in those States. Big companies are making huge capital investments in the vannamei farming there, but this is not possible in Kerala. Thirdly, the cost of production in Kerala will be much higher than in other States. Labour is in short supply and expensive too.

Moreover, it would be unwise to go make huge capital investments in a sector which is subject to global trade cycles. The current high demand and soaring price is a result of the disease that has struck a large number of vannamei farms in Thailand and other countries. The situation may change when these farms recover. However, he said, the global demand for vannamei is unlikely to fall drastically, but the prices could fall.

The Kerala varsity, the first agency in the State to receive the permission for raising experimental farms, plans to culture vannamei that would suit to the brackish water eco system of the State. If successful, the vannamei farming could be extended to all suitable water bodies, varsity authorities say. This would help Kerala to maximise use of its brackish water resources and give a fillip to aquaculture.

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Published on March 12, 2015
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