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Bleak Future for Indian Fish Farmers

INDIA - With the one year extension period of the Matsya Keralam project, launched in 2008, set to end on March 31, more than nine hundred beneficiaries in the district have no clue about the future of their brackish and fresh water fish farming programmes started under the project.

The same is the case of aquaculture coordinators who were appointed by the state fisheries department to supervise the project. "We may lose our job once the extension period ends in March," said one of the aquaculture coordinator who preferred anonymity.

TimesofIndia reports a total of 42 panchayats in the district, along with Kozhikode corporation and Vadakara and Koyilandy municipalities, come under the project. The farmers are worried that they would lose the benefits they receive under the project, like free supply of shrimp seeds and manure, once the project term is completed. The project in the district has been running successfully as many beneficiaries who registered their names with the fish farmers' development agency are making profits now.

The state government had launched the project to increase the inland fish production from 75,000 tonnes to two lakh tonnes in three years. The project was extended for another year last year.

The department, through the fish farmers' society, provided quality fish and shrimp seed and manure free of cost to the farmers. The seeds were procured from the government farms, seed rearing groups and FFDA sponsored hatcheries and Matsyafed hatcheries. The beneficiaries of the project are individual farmers, farmers groups, farmers' cooperatives, padasekhara samithis, NGOS and other departments having water bodies.

According to the fisheries department, Kozhikode, a total of 279.9 hectares of land in the district brought under fish farming soon after the launch of the project. The fish production that was just 40 tonnes three years ago rose to 178.1 tonnes in 2011. This year the fisheries department has brought a total of 146.58 hectares of land in the district under fish cultivation.

Meanwhile, Ahmmed Kutty, deputy director of Fisheries said the new government might re-introduce the project under Matsya Samruthi in the next financial year. He said the project was a success and the office had not received any official information about the extension of the service of aquaculture co-ordinators. He said the farmers who wanted to continue their fish cultivation could procure fish seedlings from the fisheries farms with 50 per cent subsidy.

Lucy Towers

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