VISAKHAPATNAM/VIJAYAWADA ; The indiscriminate use of antibiotics in shrimp cultivation has emerged as a threat to the export of the seafood, which is a major revenue churner for the government exchequer. Sources in the Fisheries Department say 36 containers carrying shrimp shipped from Visakhapatnam and Nellore were returned by European Union countries recently as the consignment failed to match their safety standards because of its high antibiotics content.
A research conducted by scientists of the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) in Vizag revealed the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in shrimp farming.Blaming lack of awareness among farmers and a poor monitoring mechanism, scientists said the practice could result in several health issues including anaemia and cancer in consumers in the long run.
“During the last six months, the European Union has rejected 10 shrimp consignments from India owing to the presence of banned antibiotics Furazolidone, Chloramphenicol and veterinary antibiotics residue in the Vannamei variety. The Union has also issued a notification not to use antibiotics such as Chloramphenicol and Nitrofurans as they are harmful to consumers. But neither farmers nor hatcheries paid any attention. It has become a blame game involving many,” says Madhusudhana Rao, CIFT principal scientist.
Andhra Pradesh, which has a 974-km-long coastline, is a major exporters of prawns and shrimps. Visakhapatnam, Nellore and Godavari districts export 25 lakh tonnes of seafood, generating a revenue of `28,000 crore per annum. Not only EU, but Japan and the USA, which were major exporters of AP shrimps have rejected consignments for the same reason. Scientists are calling for a uniform method for all countries to test antibiotics content.
Of the total fish exports of 11,34,948 tonnes from India in 2016-17 fiscal, 9,34,484 tonnes are shrimps and 60 per cent of it was from Andhra Pradesh, especially the Vannamei variety which is high in demand in the US, the EU and Japan. The scientists say lack of uniformity in the tests conducted by the EU and in India also contributes to it. The same produce gives different results in India and the EU as the tests followed are different.
“We are advocating for a joint proficiency test by the scientists in India and the EU so that all can standardise a common mode of analysis and parameters. In a recent meeting with the Commissioner of Fisheries, the ICAR-CIFT has recommended an action plan to minimise the use of antibiotics in shrimp cultivation. We must ensure that the feed and other supplements used in the hatcheries are free from the banned antibiotics and the products listed by Coastal Aqua Culture Authority (CAA) are used.
The use of unlabelled drugs should be stopped and a record of all inputs used in a shrimp hatchery be maintained,” suggests Rao. He advocates for awareness campaigns and training programmes to control the usage of antibiotics and adoption of scientific farm practices with stocking densities and better water management.
L28,000 crore Income generated by AP from exports of seafoods
L17,000 crore Income the country generates from prawn exports
40 Percentage of prawns produced in AP exported
4 lakh tonne Estimated import by European countries generating J3,500 crore