The Meghalaya government has decided to make the state a self sufficient in fish production with the fisheries department contemplating to take over as many as twenty five thousand fresh fish ponds across the state.
The state had developed around 17,000 fish ponds under the state aquaculture mission so far.
“Proposals are in progress for developing around 25,000 fresh fish ponds we want the state to produce fish on its own in the next few years without depending on others,” Meghalaya fisheries minister, Comingone Ymbon said on Wednesday.
The state government would submit the proposals to the Centre for financial assistance. The financial requirement for developing the proposed fish ponds is yet to be worked out.
The move of the state government came close on the heels of the recent ban on import of fish from outside after detecting the presence of formalin, a highly toxic preservative which is injurious to health.
Meghalaya imports about 21,000 metric tonnes of fish annually from outside like Andhra Pradesh, while the state on its own produces only around 12,000 metric tonnes annually.
In the last five years, the fish ponds created under aquaculture mission could produce around 8,000 metric tonnes of fish in a year.
Till last year, Meghalaya’s demand for fish has gone up to around 33,000 metric tonnes annually, and the hill state has to meet the deficit of around 21,000 metric tonnes by importing from outside particularly Andhra Pradesh.
An official in the state government observed that people in Meghalaya are not traditional fish farmers.
“We need to learn from states like Andhra Pradesh. In Andhra, the farmers’ turnover is not in crores but they are the ones who do fish farming without waiting for the government’s support. We want that kind of a scenario in Meghalaya too,” the official said.
To increase the state’s fish production, he stressed on building the capacity of farmers.
“We need to focus on capacity-building and empower our fish farmers. It is not easy to achieve the target and giving grants and subsidies will not help much. We have to build entrepreneurship. Fish farmers need the right kind of fish feeds and scientific ways of harvesting fish with a focus on increasing the size of fish,” the official pointed out.
Stating that the state government is working towards self-sufficiency with focus on producing quality fish in a scientific manner, the official said consumers also have a big role to play by demanding fresh fish instead of buying imported ones.
“The market is already there since the demand for fresh fish is very high,” he said.
Asked about indigenous species, the official said, “We have to go slow in areas where indigenous species have to be preserved. We have to fish farming do extensively in feasible areas for commercial production. Through mixed strategies, we can achieve the target,” the official said.