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NEW DELHI: Seeking to double India’s export earning from fisheries, the Centre will expand the reach of this sector by investing in critical infrastructure and create an export hub in north India especially in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, where prawn farming can be promoted in saline water in a big way.
Though the prawn farming had been introduced in Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Kapurthala districts in Punjab and Hissar district in Haryana long ago for domestic markets such as Chandigarh and Delhi, the renewed attention is expected to expand the operation on a much wider scale for export.
“So far, south India was a major export hub for fishes. Now, north India too will emerge as an export hub,” said Union dairying and fisheries minister Giriraj Singh while sharing details of a central scheme – Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) – which aims to invest Rs 20,050 crore in the fisheries sector over next five years.
The PMMSY aims to enhance annual fish production to 220 lakh metric tons by 2024-25 from 137.58 lakh metric tons in 2018-19 at an average annual growth rate of about 9%.
Responding to a question on the impact of the current Covid-19 situation on the sector, the minister said the fish export from India might have been declined by 5-10% in the current year due to demand compression in the wake of the pandemic.
“As per the latest inputs, there is not much impact on exports. There would be maximum 5-10% fall in exports,” he said, adding the shipments were affected during initial days of the nationwide lockdown, but the situation began to improve after the government exempted fishing activities from the lockdown rule from mid-April onwards.
“A final report on export status is, however, expected in June,” said Singh.
Constituting about 7.73% of the global fish production and export earnings of Rs 46,589 crores in 2018-19, India is currently the fourth largest fish exporting nation in the world.
The minister said the ambitious scheme, which aims to invest Rs 20,050 crore till 2024-25, would result in doubling export earnings to Rs 1,00,000 crore and generate about 55 lakh direct and indirect employment opportunities in fisheries sector over a period of next five years.
As part of critical infrastructural development, the scheme will also focus on developing aqua parks as the hub of fisheries and aquaculture activities in the country.
Singh said the thrust of the PMMSY will be on enhancement of fish production and productivity, quality, sustainability, technology infusion, post-harvest infrastructure, modernisation and strengthening of the value chain, standards and traceability in fisheries sector from ‘catch to consumer’, establishing a robust fisheries management framework, fishers’ welfare and enhancement of fisheries export competitiveness.
An estimated investment of Rs 20,050 crores under the PMMSY comprises of central share of Rs 9,407 crore, states’ share of Rs 4,880 crore and beneficiaries’ contribution of Rs 5,763 crore.
Singh said about 42% of the total estimated investment was earmarked for creation and up-gradation of fisheries infrastructure facilities.
“Focus areas include fishing harbours and landing centres, post-harvest and cold chain infrastructure, fish markets and marketing infrastructure, integrated modern coastal fishing villages and development of deep-sea fishing,” he said.
Besides creating critical fisheries infrastructure by attracting private investments in the fisheries sector, the PMMSY plans to reduce post-harvest losses from currently 25% to about 10% by modernizing and strengthening the value chain.
A booklet on the scheme, released by the minister, notes that the government will register ‘Sagar Mitras’ (friends of the ocean) in all coastal villages and encourage the formation of Fish Farmers Producer Organizations (FFPOs) to help achieve the PMMSY goals.
“Youth will be engaged in fisheries extension by the creation of 3477 Sagar Mitras in coastal fisher villages. A large number of Fisheries Extension Services Centers will be set up in private space to create job opportunities to young professionals,” said Singh.
The PMMSY will also focus on several new activities and areas such as traceability, certification, accreditation and aquaculture in saline/alkaline areas.
The booklet also speaks about other activities under the scheme including genetic improvement programmes, setting up nucleus breeding centres and promotional activities for fish consumption, branding, GI (geographical indication) in fish.