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  • Writer's pictureDr. Manoj M. Sharma

Boosting Domestic Shrimp Consumption

As the landscape for shrimp production undergoes changes and external factors increasing start impacting exporters, there is a growing need in India to focus on developing the domestic market. The Indian shrimp farming industry has faced a number of challenges over the last few years including falling prices, rising input costs and obstacles to production. This has adversely affected a sector that has seen unprecedented growth over the last twenty odd years.

India’s vennamei shrimp production had been consistently rising till COVID-19 and the Ukraine war coupled with severe inflation led to a contraction in production by around 15% over the last three years. The value of shrimp exports has dropped by around 30%. Despite the overall volume of 750,00 metric tons, farmers are increasingly struggling to harvest shrimp at full size. Over and above this, there has been a 25-27% rise in input costs related to feed, energy and shipping leading to a squeeze in profit margins resulting in many producers seeking alternative sources of income that are less volatile.

Allowing the industry to decline can have hugely detrimental consequences for the country’s rural and coastal employment. The Indian shrimp export industry contributes nearly $ 5 billion to the Indian economy and provides livelihood and income for the rural population.

Efforts are underway to improve margins through routes like reducing import duties on feed and technology adoption. However, farmers need more options during challenging times. One of the solutions is to introduce a mix of species beyond vennamei. This has the potential to open up new markets in Europe and U.S.A. , offering better prices and stronger margins. Several companies have already started working on black tiger and freshwater shrimp production. Another major route is to increase consumption of shrimp in the domestic consumer market. Despite being 73% non-vegetarian, the per capita shrimp consumption in India is abysmally low. However, the farmed fish industry in India supplies over 14 million metric tons of freshwater fish to the domestic market annually. If a similar market can be developed for shrimps, it will provide a much-needed outlet for Indian farmers. The smaller shrimp, harvested when crops fail, can be sold in the domestic market.

With India’s population size of 1.4 billion, if only 40% people consume 1 kg of shrimp per year, there is a potential domestic market of 400,000 to 500,000 tons of shrimp. This, however, will need government support and backend infrastructure upgrades.

Examples from Brazil and China show the positive impact of having a strong domestic market. If the vision of developing a domestic market for shrimp in India becomes a reality, it could revolutionize the aquaculture industry by reducing costs and providing price stability in an industry often affected by international crises. Even a 1% contribution of the government’s aquaculture funding towards promoting domestic consumption could be a game changer for the Indian shrimp farming industry.

Promotion of domestic market for shrimp consumption should be initiated in the form of celebrity engagement and endorsement, creating marketplace in major cities of India, increasing social media presence and awareness about shrimp farming, its impact on rural community and the importance of shrimp consumption and illustrating the health benefits of shrimps and arranging shrimp food festivals. Though the journey for creation of a domestic market for shrimp consumption is long but the early steps taken in this area will benefit the future generation of shrimp industry.

The benefits of domestic market creation will be to safeguard farmers during crash harvest of low counts or no export market for their produce. Farmers will need to plan their produce as per the international market and will have a flexibility to produce smaller size shrimps catering to the domestic market. Farmers can be benefited by both domestic and international market for shrimps as they will have two different markets to cater to

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