Vannamei holds hope for aquaculturists

Farming of white-leg shrimp catching up but marketing issues a concern

Supported by a sustained demand in overseas markets, vannamei, the exotic white-leg shrimp, is slowly becoming a game changer for aquaculturists in the State.

In 2020-21, India exported 5.9 lakh tonnes of frozen shrimp worth ₹32,520 crore and States such as Andhra Pradesh have been extensively farming the variety.

While many States switched from tiger shrimp to vannamei over the years due to high productivity and profit margin, Kerala is yet to tap the potential of vannamei culture.

The Agency for Development of Aquaculture Kerala (ADAK) recently carried out a demonstration farming at its farm at Ayiramthengu, harvesting more than two tonnes of shrimp from half an acre.

“This means that we can produce around 10 tonnes of vannamei from a one-hectare farm. When we take the national average, productivity of vannamei is five tonne per hectare and even that ensures a profitable farming system,” says Dinesan Cheruvat, Executive Director, ADAK.

Compared to fish varieties such as tilapia and pangusis that yield around 10 tonnes per hectare, the market value of vannamei is much higher. While a kg of vannamei, an export-oriented variety, can fetch anything from ₹300 to 400, pangusis is sold at ₹100.

Kerala, with many seafood processing units, usually wait for vannamei consignments from other States. According to experts, shrimp farming in Kerala has come down considerably from 13,000 ha to 2,000 ha in the past 20 years.

Though many aquaculture programmes had been implemented by the government, few focussed on enhancing shrimp production or adopting the practices opted by the leading States.

According to aquaculturists, a string of vannamei farms have come up across the State in recent times but the farmers are struggling to develop a strong marketing network.

“Vannamei culture is slowly becoming popular in districts such as Kannur. The specific pathogen-free (SPF) variety has comparatively higher survival rate and it’s an advantage,” says T.Prushothaman, State president, Kerala Aqua Farmers Federation.

While the indigenous naaran (white shrimp) and tiger varieties are not ideal for intensive farming, the stocking density and yield of vannamei is much higher.

“But right now the biggest challenge faced by farmers in Kerala is the inflow of product from other States. When we implement a project, everything from production to sales should be taken care of. There is no point in enhancing production if there is no provision for marketing,” says Mr.Prushothaman.

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