With water logging having become a permanent problem over large areas of Haryana, farmers are making hay from shallow, saline waters
If you are an industrious lot, you can turn a clouded sky into sunshine. Thus it is the case with farmers in the agrarian state of Haryana, where farmers are quietly shifting to fishing to solve the problem of large swathes of the state’s farmlands submerged in water permanently. It isn’t something their forefathers had taught them to do, but more and more farmers are learning the skills of fish farming in their human-made ponds. And they are being encouraged by the state agencies.
With more farmers taking to fish farming, the annual production of fish in Haryana has increased to 144,200 tonnes in 2016-17 against 105,579.50 tonnes during 2013-14, Agriculture and Farmers Welfare and Fisheries Minister Om Prakash Dhankar said “We have brought 18,975 hectares of water area under fish farming in 2016-17 by increasing it from 16,921.69 hectares of water area. Haryana has become the first land-locked state where white shrimp farming is being done on saline land,” he said.
White fish farming is does on lands where there are saline ingression due to proximity to the sea. However, though this is not the case with landlocked Haryana, farmers are converting their ‘accidental’ shallow saline wetlands into white shrimp cultivation.
Shrimp farming has changed from traditional, small-scale businesses in Southeast Asia into a global industry. Technological advances have led to growing shrimp at ever higher densities, and broodstock is shipped worldwide. Virtually all farmed shrimp are of the family Penaeidae, and just two species – Penaeus vannamei (Pacific white shrimp) and Penaeus monodon (giant tiger prawn) – account for roughly 80% of all farmed shrimp.
White shrimp industrial cultivation is today a global business, with a value of at least USD 16 billion, with the highest number of consumers being from the US, Western Europe and Japan. Hence, it could be argued that the Haryana farmers are taking a good gamble, but the problem is that these industrial monocultures are susceptible to disease infestation, so unless serious precautions are taken, the farmers will be faced with frequent losses.
But in the case of Haryana, it is less of a choice than a compulsion, sources say. Besides, the supply chain will satisfy not just the end-farmers, but three tiers of people. These include the hatcheries, which grow the seedlings; these are sold to the nurseries; which then sell the tiny shrimps to farmers who grow them in ponds (in the case of inland shrimp-farming) and sell them in the market. In tropical climates, it is possible to have a run of two to three harvests every year.
“Haryana is at second position (among inland states) in the country with fish production of 7,200 kilograms per hectare per year in 2016-17. It was 5,800 kilograms per hectare per year in 2013-14. The fish production would be increased to 10,000 kilograms per hectare per year in 2017-18,” Dhankar said, adding that the Haryana government had lined up incentives and subsidies for farmers to shift to fish rearing.
As per the estimates of the state’s Fisheries Department, there are over 10,000 farmers who have taken to fish farming and are getting better remuneration than what they earned from the wheat-paddy crop cycle.“We ventured into fish farming about four years back. This is a better proposition than growing wheat-paddy crops. It has higher returns too and is providing more employment to people,” Jaswant Singh, a farmer in Karnal district, told IANS.Fish farmers are not only rearing popular varieties of fish like rohu, mrigal, catla, common carp, silver carp and grass carp but also shrimps and prawn.
The Haryana government has decided to set up a hi-tech and ultra-modern ornamental fish hatchery in Jhajjar district of southwest Haryana at a cost of Rs 13.68 crore. This would be the first-of-its-kind project in the country.“It has also been proposed to develop about 16,000 acres of water-logged land in Jhajjar and Charki Dadri districts for fish farming so as to generate a new source of income for the farmers,” Dhankar said.Given the success of fish breeding in the state, the National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources has declared Haryana a “fish disease-free state”.
It is not only the 15-odd government fish farms that are doing well in the state. A number of private farms have established themselves in the past few years.The story of the Sultan Fish Farm in the Nilokheri area of Karnal district is quoted as an example of the success of a private enterprise. The farm supplies fish seeds and fish to the government and other states and is well-known nationally and internationally.Farmer Sultan Singh set up north India’s first fish farm in 1984.
“Fish farmers have earned a handsome amount of net profit Rs. 320,000 per hectare per annum from fish farming in their water-logged land,” a recent report of the Haryana Fisheries Department said.Haryana was carved out of the most backward region of erstwhile Punjab in 1966. Primarily an agrarian state, it faces many challenges on the agriculture front as the irrigation network is not as strong as in Punjab – the land of five rivers. The only major river flowing through Haryana is the Yamuna.
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