Wholesale fish prices rose by a whopping 131% during past five years as India's growing appetite for fish owing to rising per-capita income, urbanisation and evolving eating patterns. This is fast leading to depletion and over-exploitation of fish stocks in the country, a recent ASSOCHAM study on this sector said.
“While index value of fish was over 126 during 2008-09, it rose past 291 as of 2012-13 due to a combination of factors. Falling fish catch owing to rising water pollution, dumping of plastic and other harmful materials, absence of organized retail in fish trade, persistence of age-old distribution system, post-harvest losses and rising operating costs due to unabated diesel price rise resulting are the main factors behind this, said a sector-specific analysis of fish prices.
Alarmingly, growth of fish production in India has declined to half i.e. from about 7% in 2008-09 to 3.5% during 2012-13.
“Wholesale inland fish prices rose by a whopping 200% and marine fish prices rose by about 91% during the period,” said D.S. Rawat, national secretary general of ASSOCHAM.
Growing urbanization and advent of supermarkets has lead to growth in fish consumption across India, but lack of poor post-harvesting equipment, inadequate food processing technology and storage facilities is bleeding the fishing industry, hampering its growth prospects.
Besides, India's traditional fishing communities are over-exploiting coastal waters thereby leading to fast depletion of marine resources and shrinking catch from coastal regions. The study also highlighted that due to severe dearth of suitable fishing vessels fish stocks in India’s territorial deep-sea waters remain untapped leading to potential income loss to fishing community and other stakeholders. Lack of proper post-harvest fish handling infrastructure in India leads to wastage of about 25% of total fisheries resources thereby causing a staggering Rs 15,000 crore annual losses, it said.
Poor handling and processing of catch, inadequate packaging, and storage facilities clubbed with marketing malpractices and other related factors are leading to massive losses worth Rs 61,000 crore to the marine and fish industry.
With over 8,100 kilometers of marine coastline, four million hectares of reservoirs, two million hectares of brackish water and nearly 51,000 square kilometers of continental shelf area, India is ranked as the second largest fish producer in the world after China and accounts for nearly six% of global fish production of about 180 million tones annually.
ASSOCHAM has suggested developing technology for value addition and infrastructure for fish production based on public private partnership (PPP) model to overcome the setbacks.
More investments should be made in value added fish and marine products in ready-to-eat and ready-to-serve categories more so as growing domestic market also offers opportunity for such products in the fast growing retail sector, study said.
There is also a need to nurture, protect and carefully exploit marine capture as the industry is directly linked to India's food and nutritional security.