Shrimp production volumes in India have continued to increase in 2019, contrary to some reports and to the surprise of many, including Anil Kumar, joint director of Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA).
"We had anticipated production to drop further down by 20-25%," Kumar said, at Infofish's 2019 shrimp conference, held in Bangkok, Thailand.
"But, surprisingly when we looked at the first-half results of the financial year from April to September, when we looked at the production, it’s slightly increased," he said. "Everybody was anticipating that prices have gone down from last year, there were rumors of lots of diseases there, but the good news is that actually the data shows that production has gone up."
At the Global Outlook in Aquaculture Leadership (GOAL) conference, held in October in Chennai, India, the forecast was for Indian production to drop in 2019. The GOAL prediction has India flat at around 600,000t in 2019 and 2020, down from as much as 700,000t in 2018 (see second below).
According to Kumar’s data (see first below), Indian shrimp production currently stands at close to 700,000 metric tons for all species, approximately 90% of which is vannamei. Production is being increased by both a certain degree of area expansion as well as a more productive use of the current 172,000 hectares worth of ponds.
"Some states like Gujarat usually go for one crop per year, other states go for two crops or more, so there is a tendency for more and more nurseries coming now, and that is resulting in better productivity."
"Increasing the area is still happening, but not as fast as it used to happen before. The old production of vannamei started in 2009-10, and there was a rapid increase in three or four years. Now the rate of increase in the area has come down, but the yield per hectare year, that’s come up," Kumar said.
Manoj M Sharma, director of shrimp farming company Mayank Aquaculture, told conference members, via before-and-after satellite pictures that show the extent shrimp farms have expanded in Gujarat.
The photos, taken for Google Earth over three shrimp farming areas Dumas, Olpad and Mandroi, show how between 2004-2018, small clusters of ponds transformed into large blue patchworks of ponds devoted to shrimp aquaculture.
While India still has room to expand its shrimp production, China does not. Expanding shrimp farms in China is "impossible", said Cui He, president of China’s Aquatic Products Processing and Market Alliance, during the Infofish conference. Already a producer of 1.82 million metric tons of farmed shrimp annually (other industry members cite much lower figures), more likely is a decrease, he suggested.
"Perhaps there will be a decrease [in farming area], I think," he said.
India plans network of labs to tackle disease
But India is not just expanding its farming area to increase production, it's also ramping up its approach to combating shrimp disease, Kumar said.
As part of its five-step program to tackle shrimp disease, India will be investing in a network of advisory laboratories, providing research and technical advisory services to shrimp farmers, said the MPEDA executive.
The government is aiming to build around 100 "Aqua One" labs in five key coastal states around the country, created as part of a public-private partnership, Kumar said.
Indian shrimp’s biggest threats are whitespot and enterocytozoon hepatopenaei (EHP), he acknowledged, detected in 8% and 6% of annual samples respectively.
"What we observe is, during the winter crop, which is from August to the end of November, we find more of a white spot occurrence; and during the summer crop, which runs from March to July, we find more white feces and EHP problems," Kumar told listeners at the conference.
The government has reportedly established an aquatic quarantine facility at Chennai airport in Tamil Nadu province, the only airport in the country through which foreign broodstock is permitted to enter.
Furthermore, as part of the national disease surveillance program, seven national institutions have begun meeting with shrimp farmers and holding advisory sessions, promoting best management practices — Kumar claimed that 10,000 farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India’s largest shrimp-farming state by far, have been addressed in this manner.
"Farmers often accuse hatcheries of giving infected PLs [post-larvaes], but we couldn’t find many cases of EHP in hatcheries," Kumar said.
MPEDA also has multiple schemes underway aimed at eliminating the use of antibiotics in the country’s shrimp aquaculture system, according to Kumar.
For starters, MPEDA is planning to introduce a novel certification scheme encouraging hatcheries to use antibiotic-free feed. The organization has already been running a test hatchery with nine tanks this year, attempting to prove to local farmers that it is possible to produce antibiotic-free post larvae (PLs) shrimp, via a combination of bacteriophages and probiotics. The results are due for the end of January, Kumar said.
A pilot version of the shrimp seed certificate, tested with 20 shrimp hatcheries, will then be run from January 2020. Guidelines for producing antibiotic-free PLs will be drawn up from the results of this year's MPEDA tests, Kumar added, which can then be used as an example of best practice by the test hatcheries. Data will then be entered into a secure, transparent blockchain system.
The pilot scheme is expected to run for eight months, with the full certification to be launched in 2021. According to the MPEDA co-director, once hatcheries have begun adopting the new certification successfully, a separate version will be rolled out for shrimp farmers too.
On top of this, state-level police task forces have also begun holding regular inspections of hatcheries and aquatic ingredient suppliers, Kumar said, with sharp fines for suppliers or manufacturers found selling unlabeled products, or ones containing antibiotics.
Since the program started last November, task forces have already inspected 479 hatcheries and 1,029 aquaculture supply shops, according to Kumar.