Ornamental Fish Breeding – a livelihood initiative

By: Staff Reporter
Fisheries Interviews

Shri G Mohan Kumar, Chairman, The Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), in conversation with the editor, affably offered insights on issues of sustainable livelihood and outlined mechanisms to increase the export potential of breeding exotic and ornamental fish. He spoke in detail about a new initiative launched by MPEDA to promote ornamental fish farming as a livelihood opportunity. Optimistic about its success, Shri Kumar felt such schemes have the potential to reach every home and office in the country as well as internationally.

What is the potential of ornamental fish breeding in our country?

There are about 2,000 ornamental fish breeding units in the country. Nearly 60 per cent of them are located in rural areas and operated as a back yard enterprises, mostly by the poor people. The scale of investment is also too low to produce export quality ornamental fish.

The international market for ornamental fish however, offers a multimillion dollar opportunity with exports to the tune of US $ 250 million in 2006 and the retail market size is about 5 billion for ornamental fish alone.

India’s share of ornamental fish export is meager at Rs 5.85 crore (US$ 1.45 million) only. Although the country has immense potential in terms of water resources (both marine and fresh water), agroclimatic conditions and ornamental fish resources, it has not been optimally harvested till now. There are around 275 fresh water indigenous and around 150 marine ornamental fish species in India. Also 200 varieties of exotic ornamental fish species are currently being farmed in India. The international market for ornamental fish is dominated by exotic ornamental species (nearly 90 per cent). Similarly, the domestic market which is estimated to be quite large also has a high demand for exotic ornamental fish – such as gold fish, guppy, platy, molly, neon tetra etc.

What is the scale of operations of the ornamental fish breeding programme?

The breeding of ornamental fish is a skill oriented activity. MPEDA had launched the ornamental fish breeding schemes to assist entrepreneurs to set up breeding units which will ultimately result in production of export quality ornamental fish. Under the scheme, the breeding units are classified as Grade 1,2 and 3 – small, medium and large, based on the scale of investment required, Rs 1.5, 4 and 15 lakhs, respectively. The entrepreneur is also trained free of cost at a designated MPEDA training centre.

How many small scale entrepreneurs have been supported and what have been the earning opportunities of these stakeholders?

A total of 124 units have been set up under the scheme since January 2008.

What does technical support entail?

The technical support involves training as mentioned above. In addition, advanced training programmes are also imparted to practicing breeders based on the performance of the unit. Taking into account the need for technical support, MPEDA is in the process of developing five training centres at selected NGOs all over the country. These training centres are envisaged to provide training for new as well as existing entrepreneurs.

According to your website five states have been chosen for your pilot projects (Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and West Bengal) – any particular reason for the preference for these states?

More than 1,700 units are already operating in theses states. Moreover, these states have a long history of ornamental fish production, creating the enabling environment for a successful intervention.

Is there any other government organisation that MPEDA is presently working with to promote this livelihood option at the grassroot level?

The ornamental fish breeding programme has been operationalised in Kerala through MATSYAFED which is engaged in the upliftment of fishermen and women.


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