Fish culture is practiced in less than 30 percent of the total areas available. This has a potential to create huge job opportunities, provided fish cultivation is done on a scientific basis
India is a large producer of inland fish, ranking next only to Japan.
With an abundance of freshwater resources, India has still not been able to tap even 30% of the potential area for inland fish production. Many entrepreneurs have, however, chosen to take this occupation on commercial scale. This is best manifested in Andhra Pradesh, which with 10,56,000 tons of inland fish production in 2007-08 ranked next only to West Bengal, which is far more endowed with water resources. Andhra Pradesh has emerged among the ranks encouraging farmers to form cooperatives to take up farming in ponds around Kolleru lake.
Both the central and state governments have come up with schemes to help the cause of the farmers.
Fish culture in ponds
Out of the total inland fish production of over 3.6 million metric tons, more than 60% is contributed by fish culture in ponds and reservoirs. The average productivity from ponds on the national level is around 2,500 kg/ha/year, though in Andhra Pradesh and Haryana it is more than 5,000 kg/ha/year, while in some other states like Bihar and UP it is anywhere between 1,500 and 2,500 kg/ha/year. Fish culture is adopted by all kinds of farmers – small and marginal ones, relatively larger farmers and those who do it on commercial scale. Sizes of ponds also depend on how affluent the farmers are. Ponds less than 100 square meters in area prove unsustainable, while those above 1 hectare are expensive for small players. Many farmers in Tamil Nadu, for instance, use ponds of sizes 30 feet by 30 feet to make their living. On the other hand, a water spread of anything less than 10 hectares in Andhra Pradesh is treated as a pond.
|Fish Species Bred in Ponds|
|3.6 million metric tons - Annual produce of inland fish in India, 60 % - come from fish culture in ponds and reservoirs, 60 species - cultivated in different parts of India in ponds or reservoirs, 80% - contribution of carps from fish culture|
|Major species cultured in ponds|
| Indian major carps – rohu, catla and mrigal |
Exotic carps – silver carp, grass carp, common carp
Catfish – magur, ari, singhi.
Tilapia – also known as kowai.
Trout – golden mahseer, silver mahseer, silver grey mahseer and black mahseer.
Ponds can be perennial or seasonal. While seasonal ponds can be used for short-term fish culture, provided they retain water for at least four to five months, perennial ponds are suited for fish culture on a larger scale. Since water dries up in a few months, seasonal ponds are easy to harvest fish. Any perennial pond retaining water depth of 2 meters can be used for fish culture. Dr Gopinath Sai, executive director (technical), National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB), says a water level of 3 to 4 feet is preferable, even in summer. Fish farming can be practiced on scientific lines in perennial ponds only, though seasonal ponds can be used to cultivate fry. Though different pond shapes are being adopted by farmers, rectangular ponds are easier to work on, Sai points out. He says freshwater fish culture is a very profitable business provided farmers take up this on scientific lines. Quality of soil, water, fish seed and fish food needs to be of reasonably good quality to have better yields. The soil for ponds should be able to retain water, and hence clayey soil is preferable. The water should not be acidic in nature, nor should it be highly alkaline. It should be treated with appropriate quantity of lime. Provision for inlets and outlets should be made in ponds, as Sai and C Ratnamachari, joint director, Inland Fisheries, Andhra Pradesh, says.
However, Ranjit, a fish farmer from Bihar, now into fish culture and retail trading in Delhi, says, “We do not know about any inlets or outlets in our ponds but we manage a good catch despite that.”
Ponds are not the natural habitat of fish; it is rivers and canals. This makes it imperative for farmers to provide food from outside and also create a desirable environment. Fish food is provided in the form of oil cakes and rice bran. But to create conditions suitable for other organisms to grow inside ponds, fertilizers need to be applied. A combination of organic and inorganic fertilizers is ideal, Ratnamachari says. Their application depends on the soil quality to a great extent.
|Economics of Fish Culture in Ponds (for 1ha, up to 1m excavation)|
|Items||Amount (in Rs)|
|A. Fixed costs|
|Excavation of one hectare land (10,000 cubic meter land to the depth of one meter @Rs 20/cubic meter||200000|
|Construction of inlet and outlet to ponds|| |
|Equipment and gears||15000|
|Total fixed costs||255000|
|B. Recurring costs|
|Lime 500 kg @ Rs 7/kg||3500|
|Fingerlings 5,000 in number @ Rs 600 for every 1000||3000|
|Organic manure (cow dung) 15 tons @ Rs 400/ton||6000|
|Urea 330 kg @ Rs 7/kg||2310|
|Super phosphate 165 kg @ Rs 6/kg||990|
|Ammonium sulphate 63 kg @ Rs 6/kg||378|
Mustard oil cake 1350 kg@Rs 12/kg
|Rice bran 1350 kg @ Rs 4/kg||5400|
|Insurance cost @ 4% of seed and fertilizers||1200|
|Miscellaneous including harvesting, security of ponds, etc.||8000|
|Total recurring cost||46978|
|Production (from second year onwards ) (in kg)||3000|
|Sale price (per kg)||45|
|Total Income (from second year onwards) (in Rs)||135000|
|Net income for first seven years|
|Net Income in first year||-301978|
|Net Income in second year||88022|
|Net Income in third year||88022|
|Net Income in fourth year||88022|
|Net Income in fifth year||88022|
|Net Income in sixth year||88022|
|Net Income in seventh year||88022|
|Source: Updated from NABARD|
Rajat Sharma of Haryana Fisheries Department has a simple mathematics for fish farming, which he says is followed by most fish farmers in the state. He says what is needed to produce for 1 kilogram of fish is 1 cubic meter water, 1 kilogram of organic manure, 100 grams of inorganic fertilizer, 1 kilogram of supplementary feed and three fish seeds. Farmers, he says, should wait for one year for the fish to mature. According to his calculation, investment needed for 1 kilogram of fish is anywhere between Rs 15 and 25. The sale price of 1 kilogram of fish to wholesalers is anywhere between Rs 40 and 50, ensuring more than double the income.
Being a state subject, the fisheries department also helps farmers get the right quality fingerlings. Private hatcheries have also come up in several parts of the country and government schemes are also aiding this process. Fingerlings must be free from disease because one infected fish may cause widespread damage. Polyculture in ponds is the dominant production system in most parts of the country. Carps, both Indian and exotic, contribute to almost 80% of the produce from ponds. Rohu, katla, mrigal and magur are the favorite pond fish varieties.
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