The Ministry of Fisheries signed an MoU with e-commerce company Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), on February 19, 2024, to bring fishermen and consumers in one marketing platform to sell varieties of fish. Though belated, the move is required for developing the fishery sector in India.

The NCAER, in a recently published report, noted glaring deficiencies in digital penetration in the fishery sector. It was noted through the primary survey (conducted in 2022) that only around 12 per cent of fishermen reported that their selling activities are connected to the Web-based FMPIS (Fish Market and Price Information System). Lack of access to FMPIS could have adverse implications in terms of reduced transparency, efficiency and profitability.

Web-based platform

FMPIS is a web-based platform that provides real-time fish prices, availability and other market data to stakeholders. This can reduce the information asymmetry that exists between different market actors. In a way, digital penetration helps to ensure consumers’ access to inexpensive, high-quality fish.

The Interim Budget for 2024-25 allocated over ₹2.5 billion for the Department of Fisheries and rightly emphasised the creation of digital public infrastructure for assisting fishermen. Both inland and aquaculture production and exports of marine fishery has doubled over the last decade. The flagship Pradhan Mantri Mastya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) is being stepped up to enhance aquaculture productivity from the existing 3 tonnes to 5 tonnes per hectare, doubling exports to ₹1 trillion and generating around 5.5 million employment opportunities.

All these will serve to nurture the Blue Economy 2.0 to focus on promoting adaptation and restoration, along with climate-resilient activities for developing integrated and multi-sectoral aquaculture. The integration of technology through the marketing value chain could play a key role in making avialable varieties of fish in the consumption space. E-commerce platforms and online marketplaces could connect fish farmers directly to buyers. In this respect, the fishery sector could harness the vast potential of AI applications to reduce wastage by identifying areas of demand and increase efficiency by providing competitive options to consumers looking for sources of protein. However, the challenges in providing inexpensive and dependable technology to small and mid-size fishermen are daunting and require substantive intervention in the form of investment, training and awareness in an enabling atmosphere with the cooperation of the government, research entities and private organisations.

Fish and fishery products, whether for domestic consumption or for export, move in the marketing chain through different channels. The length of the marketing channel depends on the size of the market, the nature of the commodity and the pattern of demand at the consumer level.

The marketing channel for marine fish has the auctioneer, commission agent, wholesaler and retailer as intermediaries. The fishermen sell their catch through the auctioneer, usually at the landing centre, without any value addition. The auctioneer conducts the auction and sells the fish to the local dealers/fish collectors, who auction it off to the wholesalers. The wholesalers in turn sell their fish to the retailer after re-icing, salting, cleaning, size grading, etc. Retailers carry out further value addition before selling to the consumers. For export, the marketing channel for fish involves the trader or agent and the fish processing unit.

The NCAER study suggests that FMPIS in fishery could improve transparency, efficiency, and competitiveness, leading to lower costs and lower prices for producers and consumers. Real-time market data can help fisherfolk make informed decisions, reduce vulnerability to exploitation, and facilitate policy-making for sustainable, efficient, and transparent markets. The report predicts a 22-million-tonne market by 2026-27.

The writers are with NCAER. Views are personal