The new ‘Blue Revolution’ of the NDA era aims to empower India’s fishermen by focusing on creating environment conducive for their all-round socio-economic development, and the integrated management of the country’s fishing industry. The scheme promises to increase fish production from 10.8 million tonnes in 2015-16 to about 15 million tonnes by the end of 2019-20. The ambitious “Mission Fingerling” aims to achieve the target and has identified 20 states in which it would undertake programmes to strengthen the fish seed infrastructure. In order to increase fish production, Mission Fingerling will ensure that hatcheries and rearing ponds are established at an accelerated pace.
Fisheries play a very important role in the development of rural economy. Realising its importance and in an effort to rejuvenate the sector, the government constituted an independent Ministry for Fisheries with a separate secretary at the helm of its affairs. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman reiterated in her Budget, the Centre’s commitment to usher in a new ‘Blue Revolution’. She recognised fishing and aquaculture as the ‘sunshine sector’ of agriculture and that “fishing and fishermen communities are closely aligned with farming and are crucial to rural India”. She pledged to strengthen the same as part of the policy for doubling farmer’s incomes by 2022.Sitharaman also announced schemes to promote processing in fisheries.
The Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) has been carved under the Department of Fisheries for a robust fisheries management framework to address critical gaps in the value chain, including infrastructure, modernisation, traceability, production, productivity, post-harvest management, and quality control.
Around Rs 805 crore have been allocated for fisheries sector for the year 2019-20.
The sector is estimated to stimulate the growth of various subsidiary industries, increase the number of jobs, support livelihoods of many economically backward communities, and supply nutritious food across the country. It can also contribute substantially to exports and foreign exchange earnings. In 2018-19, India was the world’s second-largest fish producer with exports worth more than $7 billion and a growth rate ranging between 6 and 10 per cent since five years – far ahead of the agriculture sector’s average growth rate of 2.5 per cent during the same period. Global fish production is estimated to touch 96 million tonnes by 2025 and it is high time India puts in the efforts to garner larger share of the production.
While India ranks second in the world in aquaculture, China is way ahead, with a huge 60 million tonnes per annum. Nevertheless, India has the potential to enhance its production capability in fisheries. It needs a rigorous, dynamic medium-to-long-term policy action which lays special emphasis on increasing productivity of inland fisheries, as well as makes full use of India’s deep-sea fishing potential. The current one unfortunately suffers from under-utilisation and poor realisation, due to traditional fish culture practices.
It is true that China has the distinctive advantage of more than twice the coastline of India, but it is equally true that India has one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) areas of over 2 million sq. kms, compared to China’s 0.88 million sq. kms. The development of EEZs can induct new systems and large-scale deployment of offshore aquaculture activities of high-value species. Ocean ranching is a type of fish farming in which juvenile fish are released into the ocean to grow unassisted and to be subsequently harvested to yield rich social dividends without damaging the ecosystem. In this count, a single uniform national data on marine fisheries is crucial as it can truly reflect ground realities and help to plan the future efficiently.
Further, satellites dedicated to managing fisheries can bring in the technical support which this sector desperately needs. China has already brought in 5G technology to its offshore aquaculture activities to increase output in the sector. Why should India lag behind? Our fisheries sector must also try farm upgradation through AI and other cyber-physical systems of production.
Increased area of cultivation should combine with better product marketing. India adds value only to 10 per cent of the total catch of fish while the balance 90 per cent is exploited by primary producers and middlemen. Complementary infrastructural facilities such as cold chain and storage are needed to handle peak harvests and to reduce spoilage losses, which currently amount to 30-35 per cent.
As part of the Sustainable Development Goals, the sector has the potential to ensure nutrition for around 9 billion people of the world community by 2030. Fulfilling this goal requires long term investment in R&D and continuous technological upgradation.
The demand for fish and fish-related products is growing steadily and the current $232-billion industry is expanding at an annual rate of 6 per cent. However, if India is to take benefit of it and emerge as a strong leader, we need a definite roadmap to reach the goal of the new Blue Revolution.
The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.