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India to Start White Prawn Production

INDIA - The National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) has announced that white prawn cultivation is to begin in February.

The Union government will allow cultivation of white prawn (Penaeus vannamei) in India from the ensuing stocking season in February next year, according to NFDB chief executive officer, P. Krishnaiah.

India's Business Standard reports that P. vannamei, widely cultivated in the US, is seen as an alternative to tiger prawn (P. monodon), which is often afflicted by the white spot (virus) attacks. The demand for introduction of vannamei has been a long-pending demand of shrimp growers and traders as they feel there is a good export market for the species.

Shrimp culture in the country, predominantly black tiger prawn project (P. monodon), has declined from 106,165 tonnes in 2007-08 to 75,996 tonnes in 2008-09 – a fall of 28.4 per cent. The total export of shrimp and scampi (lobsters) from India during 2007-08 was valued at 28.36 billion rupees (INR), compared to INR 37.77 billion the year before and INR 36.05 billion in 2005-06.

Typically, a kilo of black prawn (20 to 25 prawns) fetches about INR 275 to 300. With the white spot virus becoming rampant among the wild species, the profitability decreased and many shrimp farmers have run into difficulties.

Keeping in view the demand for quality shrimp seed, the NFDB has decided to set up a specific pathogen-free (SPF) shrimp seed plant for the black tiger prawn project at Mulapolam village in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh together with Moana Technologies, a Hong Kong-based company with a proven record in SPF research for the species. SPF does not mean that shrimp are completely disease-free.

The NFDB had already acquired 100 acres of private land for the project estimated to cost INR 40 million. NFDB's role is to create hatchery infrastructure and then lease out the facilities to Moana Technologies, which will have a production capacity of three billion SPF seed a year.

But now, the SPF project is in troubled waters, reports Business Standard. "The project is mired in technical issues as Moana is now looking at replacing its partners in India. The project is not off," Krishnaiah said, adding that NFDB had asked Moana to prove its funding capabilities before setting up the required infrastructure. The NFDB is now preparing to call tenders for the civil works of the project.

For some time, the Central Aquaculture Authority allowed P. vannamei to be cultivated in India but only after pilots. The Centre created a quarantine facility in Chennai and approved 24 hatcheries to supply the vannamei seed. In Andhra Pradesh, BMR and Sharath Industries have conducted pilots for P. vannamei.

A kilo of white prawn, even if the count is above 30, fetches a price of up to INR 200 in the export markets, Mr Krishnaiah said, adding that P. vannamei was low-cost, high-density species that could depend on bacterial, algal flocks and rotifers in the water. On the other hand, P. monodon is more carnivorous and requires higher protein feed. The SPF broodstock for P. vannamei is available from the US. However, without SPF and biosecurity, producing consistent post larvae will be difficult and will affect the farm economics, he said.

Andhra Pradesh, which has 50,396 hectares under shrimp cultivation with 199 hatcheries, contributes over 50 per cent to the country's shrimp production. Last year, the state produced 56,557 tonnes. The state also leads in scampi (lobster) production (19,887 tonnes last year) on 38,819 hectare.

According to Ramachander Rao, joint managing director of Avanti Feeds, a company engaged in production of shrimp feed and export of shrimp, P. vannamei will be a turning point for the shrimp traders, who are facing successive losses due to virus attacks.

the Fish Site Editor

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