There is something for everybody in Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampad Yojana (PMMSY). It’s a participatory exercise aimed at heralding the Blue Revolution in the country and the strategy is to improve fisheries in all its dimensions. The investment will have a major component to boost demand and consumption of fish and shrimp products in India, says Dr. Rajeev Ranjan, Secretary (Fisheries), Government of India, in an exclusive interview with Pravash Pradhan, Chief Editor, AQUA POST (www.aquapost.in).
Q. Sir, greetings to you from AQUA POST. The Union Government has announced Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) to stimulate the growth of the fisheries sector. When are you going to implement the scheme? Please tell us briefly about the present status of PMMSY.
Ans. We have launched the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) by giving detailed guidelines to all the states. The states are preparing their proposals which we expect them to be sent within a fortnight. We will be processing that as quickly as possible.
We have already engaged the states in deciding the guidelines and working on the unit cost, so it’s a participatory exercise. They have an idea of the scheme because we have been discussing the scheme with them for some time.
Now PMMSY itself is a combination of 100 odd schemes. It impacts the full value chain of fisheries that is why there is something for everybody that is what we hope. We have strategies for improving fisheries in all its dimensions. Some of them will be low hanging fruits where we want to straight away start working with the departments in the State governments and some of them will be infrastructure schemes and some of them will take more time. We have decided to do good planning and a make very detailed prospective plan for fisheries.
Q. The recent Indo-China conflicts may impact the shrimp export. The export may fall, thereby causing price volatility. How does the government want to address the concerns of farmers and exporters?
Ans. This is an issue. There are specific Covid related and China-related issues which are surfacing. We will see how it is coming up. So we are looking at the other alternative markets. We are looking at multi-species export promotions. We have already been looking at all these because, in the last few months, we are in dialogues and have been trying to see, how we can improve export. We have a target of 1 lakh crore to be reached in a couple of years, not only in 5 years but even before that. We have started planning. Being a very competitive market, it also needs value addition. Today India the kind of export it does is basically raw fish, just chilled, not much value addition is there.
Processed fish is not even in double digit, it is in single digit. We have to improve that. We have to ensure that the proportion of processed fish with value addition goes much higher. For that gain, lot of works need to be done. This is again what we are trying to do. All this will not happen in a day. We are engaging various stakeholders for working out strategies in detail.
Q. Shrimp aside, there is hardly any export of freshwater or inland fishes. Do you have any plan to promote export of inland fishes?
Ans: This is again a challenge because today the inland share of export is minimum. It is the marine side, which is an established sector. There are species that have good export potential like Pangasius, Tilapia. These are produced now in inland. But we have to have the cold chain and the quality to ensure that they can be exported. And this is what the value chain we are trying to work out.
Now, if you see, we have a huge production target to increase. All that mostly will happen in the inland areas as a viable strategy. Again, in export, we have to find out the specific export market, we have to go for value addition, all these need to be worked out in detail. We are working with various stakeholders.
Q. Major challenge for diversification of species is unavailability of quality seeds. I was talking to several farmers who want to go for alternative farming, if there is a crop failure or market crash in case of shrimps. What is your plan in this regard?
Ans: The availability of seed is a major issue. We are working on it. We are creating a network and we are also encouraging more private-sector people to come to hatcheries, we are telling them to come in this area to get quality seeds. Certification is important in quality seeds. We already have hatcheries, most of them are concentrated in West Bengal. We are now seeing if that model can be done in other places also. And we can supply to other places from there also. We need to work on that. We have been following all these strategies.
Q. When will you start implementing the scheme (PMMSY)?
Ans: The states now have to come up with specific proposals that is what we are expecting them to chip in. I have written to the Chief Secretaries of all the states. The Honourable Minister has written letters to the Chief Ministers. We are in dialogue with the states. Each state has to make its own plan. We can encourage them, handhold them but they have to make their specific plans according to their resources and strength. We will work together. Let’s see how much we can spend.
Q. What is the plan outlay for the current year?
Ans: Right now we are in dialogue with the Finance Ministry for extra target. We have some projections in our budget, depending upon how the states do respond. The sates also have to spend some portion from their side and take the commitment. There is State share in PMMSY. We will finalize after we get the responses from the states.
Q. What is the criteria for allocation of resources among states?
Ans. We have to first look at whether they are marine states or they are inland states. Marine states also have inland fisheries. We are looking at the concept what is their fisheries’ potential.
We are now looking at the districts which have huge potential and those are the districts we are trying to have clusters.
We are also now looking at the potential of fishery in terms of the number of fish ponds, how many are under various government schemes, how many are under traditional water resources that are being used for fisheries. We have collected all these data. We also see the fisherman population which is there in each state and district. We are looking at women’s participation, we are looking at the State government’s budget in fisheries and their past utilization. These are all five-six parameters.
We are now looking at using these parameters with a combination of weightage. But ultimately what matters is the interest shown by the States and their involvement.
We are expecting to partner with the States. It is the State’s responsibility to ensure the program to be successfully run. They are closest to the public. They are in touch with the fishers. There are 60-40 percent shares between Centre and State respectively. Some schemes are a little different. The idea is to have beneficiary participation.
Q. What is the current state of insurance for aquaculture farmers and fishers in India? What is your view on the same?
Ans: Last week, we have had a discussion with insurance companies. We are looking at the coverage of their life. We want to increase the life coverage per person, per fisher.
At the same time, we see whether we can do some insurance extension for shrimp cultivation. It was started earlier. There are some issues we are discussing. Similarly, we are looking at how we can make deep-sea fishing vessel coverage more extensive. There are a variety of issues so far as insurance is concerned, risk resilience is what we are working at, and risk mitigation is what we are working at. Insurance is one of the important issues. We are in touch with insurance companies to take it forward.
Q. What are the alternative plans in case there is a fall in shrimp price as export markets are hit by the Covid 19 pandemic? How do you want to ensure minimum price to farmers?
Ans: Right now we are not looking at that way. The other day we had a dialogue with the Andhra Pradesh Government. They had given some kind of advisory regarding minimum support prices to farmers during the Covid 19 crisis. However, the price was stabilized later.
So far as the larger issue is concerned, we are looking at developing the Indian market, the consumer base in India needs to be developed. The per capita consumption of fish in the country is quite low by global standards. The average per capita consumption in India is 5-6kg in a year whereas the global average is about 20kg. We have a lot of room to grow and increase this.
We also realize that there is a lot of good demand for hygienic fish markets in urban areas. We are looking at more investments. We are promoting more investments in the value chain. So that urban markets will develop, demand will develop and consumption will increase.
By this strategy, we would at least increase consumption. For example, shrimp, more consumption will happen in India. This is one countervailing measure we are working on to increase the domestic market and consumption in India.
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