India is one of Indonesia’s biggest competitors in producing frozen shrimp and shrimp with added value, especially for exporting them to the United States.
Shrimp becomes part of India’s focus as it contributes to a significant export volume and value in the country’s seafood sector. Their cultivation efficiency also exceeds ours.
India’s biggest competition is Ecuador. Previously, India supplied 70% of the shrimp demand in China, but Ecuador has now taken over. In the early 2010s, India was the top shrimp producer in the midst of the EMS (early mortality syndrome) outbreak that happened in China and some parts of Southeast Asia.
India is known for cultivating at low density, no more than 40 shrimp /m2. However, they are capable of producing shrimp in large sizes. Indian shrimp farms tend to have large pond areas as farmers do not usually divide their ponds into smaller areas, especially in the 2000s.
Modern shrimp cultivation in India started in 1980, when the government decided to promote exported seafood and various capital opportunities, such as constructing hatcheries, new farms, and processing units. At first, India’s shrimp cultivation was dominated by the Asian tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon).
The golden era of India’s shrimp industry began in the 1990s, when the government urged massive construction of hatcheries and farms in coastal areas. Many cultivation technologies were adopted from Taiwan, China, and Thailand to give intensive support for commercial production.
India’s shrimp cultivation got back on track in the mid 2000s after a previous stagnation caused by disease outbreak and productivity issues. One of the causes was that the shrimp broodstock was still obtained naturally, and was thus prone to pathogenic infection. In 2008, India introduced SPF vannamei shrimp, although many farms have used it since 2003.
Aiming to improve productivity, Indian farmers used high protein feed and various treatments, but this caused a high amount of pollutants in the coasts. Massive expansions caused the conversion of coastal forests, and poor waste management worsened the situation, driving protests from environmentalists.
Disease also remained one of the biggest challenges for India’s shrimp industry which threatens productivity and profitability. They experienced a severe WSSV outbreak that caused huge losses for farmers as well as protests from environmental activists against coastal shrimp farms.
Now, many farms have developed nursery facilities. Shrimp fry is grown under high density in ponds with strict biosecurity measures. After reaching a size of 0.5-1 gram, the shrimp is transferred to grow-out ponds.
India regained their glory days in 2010, after the introduction of vannamei shrimp succeeded tiger shrimp. Now, 90% of India’s shrimp cultivation focuses on vannamei shrimp and they produce 800-900 thousand tonnes of this type of shrimp per year. However, in 2023, it is estimated that this value will decrease to 650-700 thousand tonnes. Their position as the top shrimp exporter in the world has now been dethroned by Ecuador.
India’s shrimp industry started losing stability due to the Covid-19 pandemic, especially lockdowns that disrupt their market and transport logistics. This condition caused panic harvest among Indian farmers which dropped the prices even further. Moreover, imported SPF stock supply was delayed due to the prohibition of international flights.
India is still currently facing a crisis which is caused by the low price of shrimp and high production costs. Similar to Indonesia, India faced dramatic price declines last year. According to seafoodsource.com, many farmers decided to temporarily shut down their cultivation until April 2023.
One of the valuable lessons from India’s shrimp industry is the willingness of all stakeholders in their shrimp industry to pave the way for a brighter future, despite starting out with more individualistic and less regulated shrimp cultivations.
India once prohibited shrimp farms to operate less than 500 meters from coastlines to support economic and environmental causes. This policy was made after considering the environmental loss, social conflict, and disease outbreak that occurred. A framework that prioritizes tackling social, economic, and environmental issues is needed to drive the shrimp industry development for the long run.
India stays alert to strengthen their foothold in the competition as the supplier of shrimp with added value. Although their shrimp export decreased in 2022 from the previous year, the export value for added-value shrimp increased 28%. This is a significant step in improving their shrimp export value.
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