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Tea garden eyes fish boom

Guwahati, Aug. 14: Amalgamated Plantations Private Ltd (APPL), the second largest tea producer in the country, is aiming to produce 200 tonnes of fish by next year in its gardens in Assam.

The company, which started fisheries in its gardens in 2007, now produces 130 tonnes of fish which is 35 per cent higher than the previous year. The fishponds are spread over 149 hectares in 15 gardens six of which have their own hatcheries.

The average size of a fish pond is 1.5 acres with the largest one spread over six acres. Rohu and katla fish from the carp family are produced in the gardens. Fish are sold at farm gate, local markets and at its kiosks at Hathikuli and Powai gardens in the state.

“Our endeavour is to increase production to over 200 tonnes in the next two years in the ponds and provide quality fish seed to the fish farming community for their yield and revenue maximisation,” Prabir Banerjea, chief operating officer of APPL’s agri business division, told this correspondent.

The fisheries project of the company is the largest in the private sector in the Northeast.

Previously known as Tata Tea, Amalgamated Plantations has its operations spread across 24 tea estates in Assam and north Bengal covering 24,000 hectares and employing approximately 30,000 workers.

APPL production during 2012-13 was 33.54 million kg of tea. The company has diversified into spices, dairies and fisheries. Six multi-locational hatcheries have been operationalised for producing quality fish seed.

“As a testimony to our quality, fish farmers from Nagaon, Sonitpur, Golaghat and Dibrugarh districts have already purchased over 10 lakh spawns and fries in the last few months,” an official said.

“The fisheries project generates significant employment and creates wealth for the local population and provides fresher and therefore more nutritious fish,” he said.

Thorough studies and training were undertaken to implement the fisheries project which proved successful and showed promise. Fish ponds were excavated in areas that have been lying fallow and no ground water is drawn for the fisheries project to ensure that there is no depletion of water table.

The official said based on the success of its hatchery operations, the Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture in Bhubaneswar has appointed APPL the authorised multiplier unit for a new variety of rohu to cater to fingerling requirements of the Northeast.

“We are also working in close partnership with local fishing communities in some districts for knowledge transfer of best cultivation and management practices we have adopted,” he said.

In 2012-13, the fisheries project has generated almost one lakh mandays employment in the gardens.

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