GUWAHATI, June 3 � The Fisheries sector in Assam is showing gradual improvement in the last few years, but some serious drawbacks have stymied further growth limiting the prospects of nearly 2,80,000 fish farmers of the State.
With a new government in place, and a new Minister in charge, fish farmers and officials believe that rapid strides can be made if the existing weaknesses are identified and removed in a planned manner.
Among the major impediments, is a �shortage of adequate manpower in the extension machinery to disseminate the advanced technology to the fish farmers, and inadequate in-service training coverage for motivating workers at the grassroots, and a failure in skill and capacity upgradation,� revealed a senior official in the department.
Limited access to quality fish seed, improved fish feed and other aquaculture inputs during appropriate culture period is another issue that has not been addressed so far.
�Poor market infrastructure and marketing linkage also act as brakes for fish farmers who would otherwise have been more motivated to increase their stock,� he added.
A stark reminder of unrealized potential is the absence of any fish processing and packaging unit in the state. Because of this gap, even the most successful of fish farmers have lost out on any opportunity in achieving value addition on their produce.
Fish farmers complain that securing bank loans is another hurdle that confronts many fish farmers, particularly those who have no collateral to provide. In the absence of bank guarantors it is a nearly impossible to get loans to invest in fisheries, and it is only the educated fish farmers who can even approach a bank.
It is for such reasons that the annual fish production in the state stands at 2.06 lakh Metric Tones whereas the economic demand is close to 2.5 lakh MT. The gap between the present production and demand has to be met by importing fish from other states of the country, which have more intensive fish farming.
There, however, are a few success stories that can be replicated in more parts of the state. Among those is introduction of fresh water prawn farming in Dimoria block of Kamrup district from last year. The farmers of Kolong Kopili, the NGO pioneering the effort, reveal that in their case NABARD and fisheries department officials played a critical role in providing support.
Ornamental fish could be the next big opportunity to fish farmers and exporters from Assam. According to experts, at present nearly 80 per cent of the total volume of ornamental fishes exported from India is mainly sourced from Assam and sent via Kolkata Airport. About 150 species are reported to possess ornamental value and in case of more than 50 species, overseas demand has been established.
Significantly, apart from numerous rivers and streams, Assam has around 1,196 beels of which 430 are registered covering 60,215 hac area and 766 are unregistered covering an area of 40,600 ha.