The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Plan on the plate to whet appetite for fish

Calcutta, Aug. 29: The essential Bengali staple — maachh — would soon get a government boost.

The state is on its way to framing a policy on fish that seeks to increase production and consumption of the Bengali favourite.

“The decision to frame a fish policy has already been taken and the committee that would formulate it is going to be formed soon,” a senior Writers’ Buildings official said.

The objective is to increase production to expand both the domestic and export markets. The domestic market now has a shortfall of 4 per cent, which is filled by supplies from Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

The major Indian carps — rohu, katla and mrigel — have to be fetched from these states because Bengal does not produce enough to cater to its own demand.

“The new policy would be aimed at increasing local production of the major carps as well as other fish popular in the state,” the official added.

To achieve that, more areas are likely to be brought under aqua-culture and small fishermen be encouraged to form cooperatives and take to more professional forms of pisciculture with a focus on marketing the produce.

One of the thrust areas would be increasing production of the varieties that are fast becoming extinct or dwindling in number. Some very common and popular varieties of fish like mourola, bata, koi, khoyra and tangra are now either difficult to come by in the market or are too few and thus cost more.

Loss of natural habitat is a key reason for a variety of fish becoming extinct. The fisheries department has already ordered officials in all districts to revive beels (ox-bow lakes) to provide the necessary habitat.

In a bid to increase domestic consumption, the government seeks to improve marine infrastructure, which is likely to be an essential component of the policy.

The number of fishing harbours is likely to be increased. “This would automatically increase facilities to net more fish,” the official said.

There is also a need to increase the number of markets — wholesale and retail — across the state and cash in on the interest in fish among people to jack up demand.

“It is very important to reach the grassroots level — the fishermen. Providing them motorised boats, fishing nets, timely loans and other facilities is also going to be a focal point of the policy,” the official said.

The export market is also in the focus. “There is room to increase export of seafood, improve the quality of produce, handling and packaging. All these issues are likely to be clearly defined in the policy.”

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