Animal Husbandry

Chartered Freighter from Kolkata Brings 35 lakhs Fish Seeds to Kochi

Aiswarya R Nair
Aiswarya R Nair

A chartered freighter Boeing 737-700 arrived at the Cochin International Airport (CIAL) from Kolkata with 35 lakh Tilapia fish seeds. 

Nearly 2,000 farmers were waiting for these Tilapia seeds to arrive according to Anandhu Ramesh, a seed supplier, breeder, and farmer based in Kochi. He sources them from Kolkata because of the demand that cannot be met by the regulatory allowance system of the state government. 

When these unusual passengers arrived at the Cochin Airport, they were released in the prepared fish pens. 

According to Anandhu, these fingerlings will grow in six months, just before Christmas. The earlier stock was consumed during Easter, so the farmer had to charter a flight to bring some fish seeds. 

The next tranche, approximately the same quantity, is expected to arrive later this week. 

Over the past four years, Kerala has been witnessing a growing community of Tilapia farmers, who are turning to aquaculture for scientific production. 

Tilapia, also known as aquatic chicken or broiler fish, is the second most farmed fish in the world with a growing global market of 11 to 12 per cent yearly. 

Anandhu supplied three crore Tilapia seeds in Kerala last year, which has 10 to 15 licensed hatcheries, pointing to a parallel seed supply chain that coexists along with licensed suppliers. 

In 2009, the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture (RGCA), the research and development arm of the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), in technical collaboration with the World Fish Centre (WFC), Malaysia, established a nucleus breeding centre for genetically improved farmed Tilapia at Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. 

MPEDA had already set up the Multispecies Aquaculture Complex (MAC) at Vallarpadam, Kochi to supply seeds to licensed farmers in Kerala. They have supplied seeds to 2,569 beneficiaries. The current estimated annual GIFT seed requirement in Kerala is around 10 to 12 million. 

According to S. Sreekumar, Secretary of MPEDA, the gap between demand and supply can lead to a parallel chain of seed supply and farming. 

The Kolkata seeds, apparently sourced from Bangladesh, are sold through agents based in Kolkata. Some seeds, also sourced by agents based in Kolkata, believed to be brought to Kerala, come through porous borders, from Thailand and Myanmar. 

The government is planning stringent measures to check seed quality when it is brought to Kerala, especially when instances of emerging diseases and mortality caused by lethal viruses such as Tilapia lake VirUS (TiLV). 

A government-aided facility for random screening and testing of seeds, using DNA-based diagnostics at an affordable cost of ₹500 is the need of the hour. 

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