West Bengal is expecting close to 6 per cent growth in fish production, at 18.5 lakh tonnes, in 2018-19. The State had produced close to 17.4 lakh tonnes of fresh and brackish water fish in FY–18.
According to Chandra Nath Sinha, State Fisheries Minister, there is a demand-supply mismatch of around 0.6 lakh tonnes in West Bengal, which is currently being met by imports from other States, such as Andhra Pradesh.
“The growth in production this year might help offset the shortfall to some extent. However, this may not be enough to bridge the gap totally as demand is also growing steadily,” Sinha told newspersons on the sidelines of the fisheries conclave organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry here on Tuesday.
The State government is focusing on maximisation of fish production through intervention of technologies, adding more water bodies under aquafarming and promoting scientific feeding and improved managerial practices to improve production, he said.
The State exported close to 1.7 lakh tonnes of fish to others states and overseas in 2017-18. Of this, export of shrimp accounted for nearly 70,000 tonnes, estimated at around ?8,000 crore.
Well behind AP
According to Rajarshi Banerji, president, The Seafood Exporters Association of India, the State has close to four lakh hectares of brackish water acreage, as compared to only about 1.5 lakh hectares in Andhra Pradesh.
However, while Andhra Pradesh has been able to cultivate close to 3.5 lakh tonnes of shrimp on nearly 1.3 lakh hectare of brackish water acreage, Bengal has managed to produce only around 60,000 tonnes, utilising about 60,000-70,000 hectares or about 15 per cent of the total area so far.
“Small land holdings, high electricity tariffs and expensive lease-rent structures are some of the major bottlenecks for the expansion of shrimp production in the State. These push up the total cost of production by nearly ?60 a kg to ?240 a kg in Bengal, as compared to ?180 a kg in Andhra,” he said.
Any fall in price of shrimp in international markets squeezes the margins of cultivators and exporters from Bengal, who are already reeling under the pressure of the high cost of production, he added.