Amidst the fear of the Covid 19 pandemic, about 10000 MT shrimps are ready to be harvested in the month of May in East Medinipur district of West Bengal. The harvesting has started since the first week of this month. The shrimp production in the district is expected to witness a drop by 60 to 70% as compared to last year during the same period.
The nationwide lockdown had brought the shrimp industry to a grinding halt not only in the State but also across India. However, those who had stocked during February-March, albeit about 30 % of the total area, are getting ready to harvest the first crop in this region.
“Though we are yet to ascertain the exact quantity of shrimps to be harvested, it could be around 10000 MT, approximately one third of the total shrimp produced last year during the same time. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic scare and unavailability of quality seeds, the majority of the farmers in East Medinipur district did not go for stocking during the February-March period. Out of 10000 hectares of culture area in the Purba Medinipur district, hardly 3000 hectares were covered under shrimp farming this time,” said Surajit Baag, ADF, Brackish water, East Medinipur, Government of West Bengal.
With the exemption of fisheries and aquaculture activities from the lock-down, exporters and processors have started their activities partially with 30% labor capacity. Out of 30, only 10-12 processing plants have resumed functioning in the state.
“Shrimp industry has taken a hit in East Medinipur district. We have partially started our processing plant since April with 30 % of staff. Though the material is ready, we do not have the liquidity to buy shrimps from farmers and make the payments. Banks are reluctant to provide loan facilities at this hour of crisis. As compared to last year (2019), we will be able to procure only 10 % of the raw material. The average shrimp count is 50 to 60,” said Subhajit Mondal, Director, Kasturi Aqua Life Products Pvt Ltd, and Pashupati Aquatics Pvt Ltd, Contai.
The price of 40 counts shrimp size hovers between Rs380 to Rs 400 and for 50 counts; the price remains between Rs300- Rs350. Those who are selling 100 counts or above are not getting a good price. The Price for 100 counts is around Rs 230.
Notwithstanding the good price during this period, farmers are finding difficulty in getting workers. Some of the major problems farmers facing are unavailability of quality seed and finance to start farming activities for the coming season.
“Farmers of Nachinda, Nandigram, and Haldia under East Medinipur district are worried about the spread of White Spot and White Feces diseases in this region. Also, due to the lockdown and limits of transportation, technicians are not visiting the farms. Thus, some of the farmers are going for early harvesting with 80-100 counts. Also, there are many farmers in Contai and Nachinda areas harvesting with 40 to 60 counts. Since many farmers in this region were aware of the spread of the Coronavirus in China in December 2019 and the market fluctuations, they did not go for stocking in the February-March period. Also, exporters, dealers, and input companies are denying credit support to the farmers this time,” said Madan Mohan Mandal, Vice President, Purba Medinipur Prawn Farmer’s Association.
Several farmers are gearing up for the second crop. They will start stocking from June first week.
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