The Telegraph
Thursday , November 7 , 2013
 
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Meghalaya eyes fish trade

Shillong, Nov. 6: From dependency to self-sufficiency, and then on to becoming an exporter.

This is what Meghalaya, which is at present dependent on states like Andhra Pradesh for fish, is working towards in the fisheries sector, through its aquaculture mission.

“We import close to 25,000 metric tonnes of fish annually from other states, notably from Andhra Pradesh. The whole effort of this mission is to cut down on import and make Meghalaya self-sufficient in freshwater fish,” Meghalaya principal secretary (fisheries department) K.N. Kumar said.

Today, the department organised the first Meghalaya State Aqua Fest after the mission was officially launched in March last year.

“Our state is endowed with abundant land and water and plagued by unemployment problem. It just does not make sense as to why we have to import fresh water fish from a distance close to 2,000km,” Kumar said.

Since the launch of the mission, he said a three-pronged approach has been adopted to unleash the state’s fisheries potential.

The first investment that was made, Kumar said, was for the farmers (the primary stakeholders) by building their capacities so that they are ready and prepared to handle the massive challenge of making the state fully sufficient in the fisheries trade.

For the last two years, the capacity of the fisheries department officials has been upscaled so that they are sufficiently equipped in various aspects, he said.

The third investment was on creating the requisite infrastructure by building up partnership with established institutions, Kumar said. “On all the three fronts, we have moved simultaneously, and we have been able to see good progress in the last two years,” he added. The target for developing the fish ponds before the end of December 31 this year is 6,518 of them, each 0.1 hectare in size, which is around 650 hectares of water area, he informed.

“This is a kind of water area which is not easy to achieve in the normal course because it took a decade for us to develop just about 500 hectares of water areas and then we are trying to achieve it in just about two years’ time,” he added.

Of the 6,518 fish ponds, already 5,800 have been sanctioned by the banks, and 5,458 farmers received their first loan instalments while 4,355 farmers have received their second instalments.

“It is quite redeeming to know that most of the farmers have not waited for the banks to extend funds. Instead, they went ahead and completed the work and they have even released the fingerlings in anticipation of future sanctions from the banks,” Kumar said.

Production from these fish ponds will begin from June-July, 2014.

A similar kind of aqua fest will be held on November 15 at Tura in West Garo Hills. Every year, this is going to be the practice to provide a platform for farmers as well as consumers.