Poor marketing hinders trout farming
Shimla, Dec 20 (IANS) Smoked, baked, grilled or fried, the trout never disappoints the tongue, say fish eaters. But the lack of a proper market and transportation are hampering private sector farming of two exotic species - the rainbow and brown trout - in Himachal Pradesh.
A study carried out by Shimla-based Himachal Pradesh University's Agro-Economic Research Centre on fish farms in Kullu, Mandi, Shimla and Kinnaur districts said lack of a proper market for fish in the area, transportation and market intelligence were some of the problems faced by farmers.
In cities like Delhi and Kolkata, there is a robust demand for trout, but poor marketing is a big hindrance, said the study conducted by researchers Ranveer Singh, Meenakshi Sharma and Pratap Singh.
Himachal Pradesh is the country's main producer of trout in the private sector, but farmers are forced to dispose of the fish at throwaway prices in the state.
'In Delhi, the trout sells between Rs.350 and Rs.400 kg, but within Himachal, a farmer gets around Rs.200 a kg,' the research study said.
The farmers largely depend on water from traditional irrigation streams for setting up fish ponds.
'The construction cost of an average trout fish farm was Rs.2.65 lakh, the annual net income per farm of those surveyed was about Rs.1.80 lakh,' the study said.
Director of state fisheries department B.D. Sharma told IANS that the government is keen to solve the marketing problem.
'The National Fisheries Board has decided in principle to set up a trout processing unit at Patlikuhl in Kullu district with an outlay of Rs.2.1 crore. We have asked the trout farmers' association of Kullu to come forward to run the processing unit, but they have not shown any interest,' Sharma said.
He said the commissioning of the unit would be a great help to the farmers as the processed fish would increase its shelf life and could be marketed across the country easily.
Lack of availability of fingerlings and fish feed have also been hampering the growth of trout farming that otherwise has huge potential, the researchers say. The farmers depend upon the government for fingerlings and fish feed, they say.
Of the 3,000-km network of state fisheries water resources, 600 km of coldwater streams are conducive for trout farming. At least two exotic fish species - rainbow and brown trout - are farmed in the state.
The average annual production of a small farm is 900 kg, whereas a large farm could produce up to 3,400 kg, said the study.
Commanding a price between Rs.221 and Rs.250 per kg, a farmer earns a profit of over 35 percent, say researchers.
A trout fish farm generates 213 days of employment in a year and provides 41 percent of average household income.
The trout is a freshwater fish of Salmonidae family. Of the 15 species found globally, brown and rainbow trout are found in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
As per the state fisheries department, the state annually cultivates 18 tonnes and 90 tonnes of trout respectively in government and private farms.
The cold waters of the Beas, Sutlej and Ravi rivers are the habitat of the trout, mainly the brown ones. The state has around 100 run-of-the-river trout farms, including six government-run ones.
The British first introduced trout in the state in 1909 in order to promote game fishing. At that time, fingerling trout brought from Jammu and Kashmir were released in streams of Chamba, Kangra and Kullu districts. The stocked fish thrived and bred.
To propagate trout in the natural waters, the state government this year decided against setting up hydropower projects in the picturesque Tirthan Valley in Kullu district.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
©Indo-Asian News Service