PALAKKAD: The Matsya Samrudhi scheme of the Fisheries Department, aimed at promoting inland fish farming by distributing fish fingerlings free of cost and feed subsidy to the public through local bodies by purchasing it from 30 selected hatchery owners in Kerala, has now turned into a lucrative business. Most of the hatchery owners who were supposed to breed them find it lucrative to purchase them from Andhra Pradesh and sell them to the local bodies at a profit.
The hatchery owners also avail of various incentives from the Fisheries Department, including the subsidy of `15,000 available for each unit which was below one acre.
Consider this: A fish farmer owning 50 cents of pond in Kerala could produce fish fingerlings at 30 or 40 paise. He has been listed as one of the 30 suppliers in Kerala by ADAK (Agency for Development of Acquaculture, Kerala) through a tendering process to grow and supply fish fingerlings to local bodies at 50 or 60 paise under the Matsya Samrudhi scheme. As fish fingerlings are available in Andhra Pradesh for 15 and 20 paise, lower than the production cost here , they are transported here in tanker lorries, say industry sources who refuse to be named.
More than eight crore fish fingerlings were purchased by ADAK from the 30 listed suppliers to be distributed to local bodies in a year. The low production cost of spawn and fish fingerlings in the neighbouring states, especially Andhra Pradesh, led to this trend.
The availability of vast tracts of land vis a vis Kerala, availability of enough brood stock, cheap labour and fish rearing being a homestead activity in Andhra Pradesh led to the availability of fish fingerlings at `15 and `20 per 100 while the average price in the state seed farms was `50 to `75 per 100 in Kerala.
The needs of the fresh water fish were being met by the National Fish Seed Farm in Malampuzha (150 lakh capacity), National Fish Seed Farm, Polachira (25 lakh capacity), fish seed farm, Pannivelichira ( 20 lakh), State Fish Seed Farm (5 lakh capacity) and fish seed rearing units (60 lakh capacity).
Thus, the total capacity of fish fingerling production in the state was 260 lakh while the need was around 500 lakh.