Issues concerning export promotion of ornamental fisheries trade in India

Atul Kumar Jain

Ornamental Fisheries Training and Research Institute, Udaipur,

The global export trade of ornamental fish is about 371.42 million US$ (FAO, 2012) with an annual growth rate of 4%. Singapore is the largest exporter of ornamental fish to the world by contributing about 18% to total ornamental fish export trade. The contribution of Singapore was about 32% about a decade back which is now declined to 18% though the total volume of trade has increased. The share of Singapore has been captured by some other developing and small countries viz; Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka etc. However, the share of India remains insignificant at less than 1%. India is not able to make a noted presence in ornamental fish trade at global level though the domestic trade is growing comparatively faster at 20% annually (approximations). Although, the potential of domestic trade is very high which will be helpful to generate self employment opportunity for unemployed youth and entrepreneurs but simultaneously it could contribute to earn foreign exchange for India through development of export. There are several factors which are prohibiting the development of export of ornamental fishes from India which are mentioned here:

  • Brand Image: The India is not able to establish a brand image in international ornamental fish trade. Most of the major importing countries mainly USA and of Europe do not prefer to directly import from India but from Singapore where it was possibly procured from India. It is mainly due to lack of faith of importers in existing production & quality control facilities as well as  quarantine measures followed in Indiathat directs them to Singapore or other Asian countries. Secondly, the Indian ornamental fish producers/traders are not able to regularly showcase their products at international platforms due to high cost and tedious process of transporting live organisms.
  • Trade statistics: There is severe lack of statistical information related to various production and trade aspects of ornamental fisheries. There is need to develop base line information on total number of ornamental fish producers, water area covered, quantity and number of varieties bred, quantity and number of varieties exported, number of aquarium shops in the country, number of hobbyist, total volume of trade etc. It will be helpful to plan the strategies for institutional support.
  • Varieties & Quality: The ornamental fish breeders in India are mainly breeding low value freshwater commercially important exotic fishes which are in high demand in domestic market only. These fishes neither have much demand in international market nor fetch much price to exporters due intense competition with other Asian countries. These are mainly indigenous wild caught freshwater fishes from Western Ghats and north-east India that are exported from India and demanded by importers. However, many of these fishes are not bred in captivity due to lack of technical know-how either about breeding or culture or mass production of these species. The implementation of “Green Certification” requirement being proposed by MPEDA to control indiscriminate capturing of wild fishes of export importance, develop sustainable practices and to promote captive breeding will further restrict export of freshwater ornamental fishes of Indian origin for time being.
  • Breeding and culture of high value varieties: There are many high value species of both freshwater and marine aquatic organisms (both fishes and invertebrates) and plants that are in large demand in international ornamental fish trade. But, these are not produced in the country due to lack of technology, knowledge and required facilities.
  • Primary Production Facilities: The two major centers of ornamental fish production in country are 24-Parganas and Howrah in West Bengal and Kolathur near Chennai in Tamilnadu. Most of the fish which are produced at these places is through low input traditional practices using village ponds as culture facility and sewage as a source of nutrient supply. An individual fish producer is a marginal farmer and ornamental fish production is a secondary activity for the entire family. The issues of quality control, hygiene and quarantine are not of any importance at these primary production centers. It is only very recently that few large production facilities has been developed in many parts of the country mainly under MPEDA assistance where selected varieties are mass produced at one place taking care of hygiene and quality control. However, these are very few in number and much smaller to suffice the requirement of an “Export oriented ornamental fish production unit”.
  • Knowledge base of producers: The most of ornamental fish production units in country are based in rural regions where many number of the producers are either uneducated or do not have any formal education or long term training in the field of ornamental fish production. The existing production system is based on their traditional know how that follows a set pattern production process. It has its own advantages and disadvantages. These producers are able to produce only limited species of fish but fail to understand importance of scientific management for ornamental fish production system and incorporate new technology and innovations.
  • Institutional support: The ornamental fisheries sector is not receiving any major R & D support from any government agencies though its potential was recognized long back. The state fisheries departments of few of the coastal states have taken up certain developmental schemes but almost none in inland states. It was only during XI five year plan that MPEDA started an “Ornamental Fisheries Development Scheme” initially in coastal states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra that was later extended to inland states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and now to Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, J & K and Himachal Pradesh also. But, still there are many other states that are potential regions and need to be covered under the scheme. However, there are many limitations with the scheme as it does not consider input requirements according to the regional environmental variations. Secondly, the quantum of financial support is not sufficed to set up an “Export oriented ornamental fish production unit”. NFDB has also started funding support to develop ornamental fisheries but it is not becoming much popular as the process of implementation is not properly streamlined.
  • Entrepreneurial scarcity: The business opportunities in ornamental fisheries sector is inviting attention of many educated unemployed youth, fresh fisheries graduates and entrepreneurs but it is mainly restricted to setting up of an aquarium shop or other related trading activities in urban regions but not the actual production processes feasible in rural parts. The young and educated Indian youth is not prepared to choose a life of hardship and struggle but the comforts of desk job in a city. Hence, there is scarcity of enterprising entrepreneurs in ornamental fish production sector. The sector is yet not able to attract large investments.
  • Skill Development Training: The experience sharpens the skill and improves efficiency of a person in any trade, profession or field but it is the basic education or training that provides the basis for gaining experience. The overall trade of ornamental fisheries is largely devoid of educated or trained professionals that inhibit the promotion of hobby at domestic level and growth of domestic and export trade in Indian contest. The R & D organizations affiliated to central and state governments have taken up few generalized schemes to promote the sector but there is need of specialized skill development trainings. The funding support initiated by NFDB and MPEDA need to be further strengthened, improved and required to be continue for a longer time.  MPEDA is organizing an ornamental fish exhibition and seminars on different aspects of ornamental fisheries once in two years for last few years. International speakers are invited to deliver talks on important subjects related to international trends in ornamental fish trade but these are of little use for our fish producer communities. It will be more useful to organize such seminars and workshops at regional level in local language.
  • Setting up of a R & D Institute: There are number of R & D institutes  affiliated to ICAR, CSIR, Ministry of Agriculture and also certain universities working in the field of fisheries including ornamental fisheries. But, the overall contribution of all these agencies towards development of ornamental fisheries is insignificant. Many of these institutes have an ornamental fisheries section as part of aquaculture division that has partly helped in the extension of traditional production practices of low value ornamental fishes but not much for high priced fishes or development of new varieties. It is only very recently that CIFA, Bhubaneshwar has developed a new variety named “shinning barb” that is being commercialized in collaboration with OFTRI. Hence, there is need to either set up a new R & D institute exclusively for ornamental fisheries development or strengthen an existing institutewhich shall be responsible for overall research and developmental activities related to sector including promotion and regulation of domestic and export trade.
  • Incentives for export promotion: There are schemes of awarding incentives to exporter on export of certain products and commodities from India. MPEDA has introduced a scheme to award incentives on export of ornamental fishes which is of very low quantum and irrespective of variety exported. There is need to link it to the variety and price tag i.e. less incentives for low priced and high incentives for high priced fish without any annual limit.

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