The size of the shrimp aquaculture sector in northwest India's Punjab state has nearly doubled over the past year, as saline, waterlogged farmland suddenly becomes the height of desirability, reports Hindustan Times.
Farmers in the districts of Muktsar, Fazilka, Ferozepur, Mansa and Bathinda districts of the Malwa region in Punjab state have reportedly been switching to shrimp farming, which offers better profits than traditional agriculture in the region.
Across the state, land used for shrimp farming has grown from 248 acres last year to approximately 400 acres this year, with 500 acres the target by the end of the year, according to Madan Mohan, the state's director of fisheries.
In Muktsar district, for instance, land used for shrimp farming has doubled over the past twelve months, rising from 66.5 acres to 138 acres already this year. State officials estimate that approximately 88,000 hectares of land in Indian Punjab is affected by saline water, meaning there is plenty more scope for growth.
In an effort to encourage more farmers to make the switch, the state government is offering a 40% subsidy on digging a pond. The Hindustan Times estimates that a shrimp farmer in the state could earn nearly INR 400,000 ($5,557) per acre, with merchants willing to pay cash being attracted to the region by the industry's growth spurt.
Speaking at Aqua Aquaria India on Friday, vice president Venkaiah Naidu said the government would be looking to encourage diversification and value-added growth in the aquaculture sector, particularly in hinterland regions such as the Punjab.