Policy Recommendations for Aquaculture Feed Industry
By Aditya Dash
The policy of being too cautious is the greatest risk of all – Jawaharlal Nehru.
India is an aquaculture powerhouse. To enhance our sector’s competitiveness, we need to address certain issues as far as aquaculture feed is concerned. Fish and shrimp feed prices need to be globally competitive. Currently, imported shrimp feed attracts 30 per cent import duty. A lower shrimp and fish feed price will translate to higher profits for shrimp and fish farmers.
Apart from that, the aquaculture feed industry needs to focus on sustainability. A major input in fish and shrimp feed is fishmeal and fish oil. The more we source fishmeal locally, the more pressure we put on our oceanic resources. The first thing we need to focus on is to reduce the price of fishmeal and fish oil. As of now, a ban exists on establishment of new fishmeal manufacturing units in India. The Government can go one step further and reduce import duty on fishmeal and fish oil to zero. This will result in lower input costs for the feed industry and will be a great conservation measure for the Indian Ocean.
We need to have zero per cent import duty on fishmeal and fish oil replacement products such
as Salmon protein powder. Currently, the import duty stands at 25 per cent. Again, this will lower feed cost and make the feed more sustainable. We should also actively encourage novel
animal feed ingredients such as Insect Meal, which has been approved for use by the European Union. Let us embrace such innovations as opposed to a wait and watch approach and then trying to play catch up.
Finally, we should permit the import of GMO soya by feed manufacturers. India is one of the few countries still growing non-GMO soya. We should capitalise on this by promoting organic certification so that non-GMO organic soya meal can be exported to developed countries to cater to their demands for organic chicken and meat. Organic chickens need GMO-free organic diet after all. If you have eaten imported Basa, also known as Paneer of the sea, there is a high chance that the Basa grew up on a diet of GMO soya-based feed. By not allowing the import of GMO soya, we are putting the Indian aquaculture feed industry and our fish and shrimp farmers at a great disadvantage. The pain is especially acute in our industry because other countries, such as Vietnam, have signed free trade agreements with European Union. Government of India has also withdrawn the MEIS incentive that the shrimp industry used to receive. This has been replaced by the RODTEP scheme, but there is no clarity on the amount.
The advantages of adopting the above policy recommendations will be numerous. The most important one being that farmers will earn more. Also, as pointed out above, it will be a good conservation measure as our domestic fishmeal industry will need to compete with their global counterparts. This is one area where we shouldn’t aspire to be Atmanirbhar. Protecting and conserving our oceans is in the long-term interests of our nation. By adopting new novel feed ingredients, we are encouraging innovation and sustainability. If we adopt all these measures, not only will we retain our status as a major aquaculture exporter, we will also emerge as a major aquaculture feed exporter.
__ The author is an “Authority Member” of Marine Products Export Development Authority. He is also Managing Director of Ram’s Assorted Cold Storage Ltd, the seafood exports division of Suryo Group. He is passionate about aquaculture and writes frequently on it.