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Punjab’s shrimp farming push : Why, what are farmers’ demands

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Punjab’s shrimp farming push : Why, what are farmers’ demands

Context- Punjab is set to see its first state-level ‘shrimp mela’ (shrimp fair), beginning Friday in Enakhera village of Muktsar district.

While shrimp farming began in the state in 2016-17, the mela is a state government push to create more awareness about it.

(Credits- Indian Express)

What is shrimp farming?

  • Shrimp farming is an aquaculture-based activity in marine or freshwater environments to produce shrimps for human consumption. In Punjab, it is done in five south-western districts of Muktsar, Fazilka, Ferozepur, Bathinda and Faridkot.

Why was shrimp farming introduced in Punjab?

  • South-west Punjab has saline underground water not fit for agriculture. Also, waterlogging is a perennial issue in this belt. Therefore, shrimp farming was proposed as a solution for farmers whose land was lying unutilised.
  • The farming began in 2016-17 on a one-acre plot in Ratta Khera village of Muktsar district. According to Kokam Kaur, senior fisheries officer of Muktsar and Ferozepur, “This project was successful, with four tonnes of shrimps produced in a one-acre fish pond. The project was funded jointly by the Centre and the state government. As of 2022-23, a total of 1,212 acres of land in south-west Punjab is under shrimp farming, with a total production of 2,413 tonnes of shrimps.”

What concerns have been raised?

  • The government has claimed that shrimp farming is progressing well in the state. However, recently, a group of farmers met Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann — at the first sarkar-kisan milni (government-farmer meeting) held at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana — saying that more than 6000 acres of saline-water area that could be used for shrimp farming was lying unutilised, as farmers were unwilling to get into it.
  • The reason for this is that the electricity connection of these fish farms are treated not as agricultural connections but commercial connections, resulting in hefty power bills.
  • The farmers demanded that the government convert these into agriculture connections or at least provide subsidized electricity.

Why is the mela being organized?

  • This mela is being organized to make farmers aware of the various schemes available for fish farming, and also to encourage more people to join it.
  • It will be held at the farmers’ training centre at Enakhera village, where successful farmers will share their stories. Also, experts will help farmers understand aquaculture.

What are the various schemes for shrimp farmers?

  • At present, various schemes are being run under the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY), which started in 2021 and will run till 2025 to promote ‘blue revolution’.
  • The project cost for a fish pond on 2.5 acres of land has been earmarked at Rs 14 lakh under this project, out of which general category farmers get 40% subsidy, while those from SC/ST communities get 60%.
  • Women and cooperative societies run by women also get a 60% subsidy. The same amount of subsidy is provided for purchasing and setting up cold storages/ice plants, for buying refrigerated vehicles to market shrimps, and for motorcycles or bicycles with an ice box.
  • The cost of these products has been mentioned by the government on the PMMSY website, and the subsidy is provided based on that. One can also set up a fish feed mill and even fish value added enterprises units and avail the subsidy.

What is the marketing process?

  • As of now in Punjab, farmers claim that they market their products on their own. In many fish farms, dealers from Kerala or other southern states come directly to pick the product.
  • Some farmers send their produce to Delhi However, many feel that the hospitality industry of Punjab should support them, so that more farmers can come into this profession.

What are the farmers’ demands?

  • Tejinder Pal, a shrimp farmer of village Ghallu, district Muktsar, said, “After inclusion of all taxes, we pay around Rs 8.50 per unit. Our units are treated as commercial connections, while in Andhra Pradesh, farmers pay only Rs1.5 per unit.
  • Moreover, we market our produce ourselves to Andhra, Kerala or other states. The state government should come forward to support this farming if they are talking of diversification.”
  • The water in this region is so saline that 10-12 aerators are needed in a one-hectare area to provide oxygen to shrimps round the clock, while standard requirement of aerators is 7-8, the farmers said.
  • In the past, some farmers’ power connections have been disconnected due to overloading and non-payment of bills. “We conveyed our concerns to the CM and the connections were restored. However, the state government needs to think about what it is doing for the promotion of aquaculture,” said Pal.

What efforts is the government making?

  • The fisheries department claims they are making farmers aware of this profession and plan to bring 5,000 more acres under shrimp farming in the next five years.
  • Farmers admit that it is a profitable venture provided a few hiccups are ironed out by the government.

Conclusion- Water-logged land has hardly any value if it lies unused, but one can earn lakhs from shrimp farming if done meticulously. However, Punjab needs to have a market for this product, allied machinery should be manufactured here, and processing units should be set up as farmers can’t do everything on their own.

Source- Indian Express

NEWS- Punjab’s shrimp farming push : Why, what are farmers’ demands

Syllabus- GS-3; Agriculture

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