The Government of India seeks to boost tilapia aquaculture in order to meet the huge demand for the fish in the domestic market and to capture a significant share of about USD 6 billion global export of the fish currently dominated by China.
To achieve this aim, Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) intends to promote large scale farming of the fish even in landlocked state based on the fact that a farmer fetches around INR 120-150 (USD 1.8-2.3) per kg at a production cost of just half of it, The Indian Times reported.
"A farmer can make a profit of INR 60,000 (USD 935) from a three tonne capacity tank with 60,000 fingerlings in a cycle lasting 45 days. Since they can run seven cycles annually the profit can touch INR 4.8 lakh (USD 7,479)," pointed out MPEDA chairperson A Jayathilak.
Meanwhile, MPEDA is expecting to raise tilapia production output in the country by increasing the seed supply of genetically improved farmed tilapia (GIFT) to the farmers. In addition, the entity recently launched a self-sufficiency project at its hatchery and training complex in Kochi to help farmers export their produce.
For his part, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture (RGCA) S Kandan project director, who works with MPEDA, encouraged farmers to use technology, available with premier research agency to diversify their business and export Indian goods to other countries.
Experts in the field stress that non-requirement of feed, resistance to disease and 70 per cent survival rate of the fingerlings keep cost of production down and that, unlike other several other species that are bred, tilapia can be grown in tanks, ponds or cages, which add to its advantages.
All in all, seafood exporter WestCoast Group, which owns Cambay Tiger brand, plans to invest INR 1 billion (USD 15.6 million) in breeding tilapia in cages in two lakes in Maharashtra and one in Rajasthan in the next four years.
" We expect to produce 20,000 tonnes in Rajasthan and 10,000 tonnes in Maharashtra," the group founder chairperson Kamlesh Gupta said.
The idea primarily is to encourage consumption of tilapia in hotels and restaurant by supplying live forms.
"Since it lends itself well as base fish for value added products, eventually we hope to replace the imported Vietnamese basa fish that is now common in restaurant kitchens," Gupta said, adding that exports will come later as they present the greater challenge with China and Vietnam holding sway in value added products. Anand Aqua Exports in Bhimavaram is another company that breeds tilapia.
Currently, farmed shrimp, particularly vannamei species, accounts for nearly 70 per cent of the value of Indian seafood exports, which reaches INR 330 billion (USD 5,142 million).