The Rs 800 Crore foreign exchange-earning shrimp industry of the State has suffered a severe jolt this year, courtesy global recession. Countries importing prawns from Odisha have slashed the procurement of Black Tigers (BT) and are opting for low cost Vannamei shrimps from Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and a few foreign countries.
The shrimp farmers alleged besides the recession, the foreign buyers are also reluctant to purchase the State's shrimps claiming excess presence of antibiotics in the prawns and terming them of substandard quality, which is not entirely true.
Perturbed over growing concern among shrimp farmers and fishermen community for the desperate situation, a team of seafood exporters of the State led by Odisha region president of Seafood Exporters' Association of India (SEAI) Gorachand Mohanty left for Delhi to discuss the matter with the officials of Ministry of Commerce and find a possible solution.
Sources said the shrimps weighing 35-gm each which were being sold Rs 350 to Rs 450 a kg a year ago are now priced at Rs 250. Similarly, the price of 30-gm shrimps has come down to Rs 180 to Rs 200 a kilo from Rs 300. The shrimps weighing around 20-gm are priced as low as Rs 120 while it was sold at Rs 220 last year.
Shrimp farmers say the low price has hit them hard as they spend at least Rs 180 to raise one kg of 30-gm prawns. While nearly 25,000 people are engaged in shrimp farming in the State, over 20 percent among them have shrimp farms stretched over 10 acres each. Culture shrimps contribute at least 80 percent of the total export and the rest are from the sea.
Expressing helplessness, the debt-ridden farmers lamented they would be forced to commit suicide if the government does not take any measures for regulating the price and support the farmers to overcome the crisis.
A farmer from Kasaphal Sanatan Mandal, who has a 2-acre farm, said he has so far sold the prawns worth Rs 20,000 against the investment of Rs 1.2 lakh.
"The prawns in my ponds are now 30 gms each. I cannot take the risk of raising them more as I fear viral disease may affect them. Now I am forced to sale the shrimps at throwaway price," he rued demanding a fairer price.
Odisha Shrimp Farmers' Association (OSFA) Secretary Biranchi Narayan Panda said the Vannamei shrimps raised by neighbouring states like Andhra Pradesh,
West Bengal and countries like Thailand, China and Indonesia have virtually taken over the black tigers of Odisha.
"The Vannamei shrimps are priced less as their production cost is less. With equal investment, four to five tonnes Vannamei shrimps can be produced against one tonne of BT. So the Vannamei producers can mange with the low
price, but not the BT producers. The shrimp consumers in the recession-hit countries also have cut down on purchase and are opting for low-weight prawns, which has added to our woes," he added.
Not only the cultured shrimps, but the shrimps caught from the sea by the trawler operators are also priced less in the market. The trawler operators have blamed the exporters for the unprecedented situation.
Attributing it to the monopoly business of the exporters, the boat and trawler operators have stopped fishing at Paradip fishing harbour for an indefinite period.
All Odisha Fish Producers' Federation president Kameswar Narayan Praharaj and Trawlers owners' association president Narendra Bihari Das have threatened to launch a statewide stir against the apathetic attitude of the exporters if they fail to take a decision for a fairer price of marine fishes, shrimps in particular, soon.
Sources said the exporters usually make agreements with foreign buyers prior to the harvest, but this year no such agreement has been made yet putting the shrimp trade at jeopardy.