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Basa fish comes to industry rescue

George Joseph  |  Kochi 

The Indian sea food industry, hit hard by the global slowdown as well as a supply crunch, has turned to a fish species found in southeast Asia and China to lift its fortunes.

The Basa, a catfish native to Vietnam's Mekong River Delta and Thailand's Chao Phraya basin, is not only being imported in large numbers by Indian seafood outlets, but is also being farmed in certain areas.

The seafood market is facing a serious supply crunch due to lower catches from both, inland and sea-based fishing. Local sea food export companies too are struggling due to poor offtake from traditional overseas like the US and Europe. The global economic crisis had affected seafood exports badly in the current financial year.

Both these factors have caused seafood export houses in India to turn to importing Basa, since it's gaining good demand not only in India, but across the globe.

On an average, India imports over 5,000 tonnes of basa every month, almost all of it from Vietnam. A large number of restaurants across major metros like Mumbai and Delhi are serving Basa to fish lovers. Also, a large number of super in major cities are selling packed sliced Basa.

"Basa, a fresh water fish, can be farmed in large ponds. In just six months, it will attain a weight of two-three kg. Soya cake is its main feed. Moreover, it's very easy to cook and is very tasty," Anwar Hashim, former president of the Seafood Exporters Association told Business Standard.

Recently, farmers in Andhra Pradesh started farming Basa on a scale. The productivity in Andhra is 50 tonnes/hectare. It is a promising rate compared to the rate of other items like Scampi and Black Tiger shrimp.

In India, there is serious shortage for fish as the catch is very low during January - May. Average price of fish grades like King Fish, Pearl spot etc had increased to a range of Rs 350-450/Kg so that the restaurants and caterers are not in a position to serve these items that Vietnam is the major producer of Basa and exports a million tones of fish meat made out of this annually.

Low value and suitablity for making any type of dish are the major attraction of Basa. Processed meatof the fish can be sold at a price tag of Rs 150/Kg.

According to him local consumers can not afford high value items. Even the prices of Indian Sardine and Mackarel have doubled in recent weeks..Mackarel is being sold at a price tag of Rs 150 -180/Kg and Sardine attracts a price of Rs 60-80 /Kg.

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First Published: Mon, March 18 2013. 00:30 IST