Litopenaeus vannamei, the white-leg prawn originally a native of the Americas, is helping script a blue revolution in India. Fisheries scientists call it one of the biggest success stories of Make-in-India if the concept can be stretched to apply to aquaculture.
Introduced in India in only 2009, the vannamei variety now makes up for roughly 80% of the country’s shrimp/prawn exports and 46% of the outbound shipment value of all marine products, showed official data. The variety has been promoted immensely by the Marine Products Exports Development Authority both in India and abroad.
The variety’s success can be gauged from the fact that its export value has risen close to sixfold in the past four years through 2015-16 to $2.14 billion (see chart). In volume term, its exports have risen just over sixfold in these four years to to 2.57 lakh tonnes in 2015-16.
Encouraged by the success of vannamei, the government expects marine product exports to touch $10 billion by 2019-20, compared with $4.68 billion in the last fiscal. The US, the EU and Japan are the biggest markets for Indian shrimps.
Massive vannamei supplies have helped India’s marine exports maintain relatively good growth and prevent the overall farm export growth from sliding further in recent years. From just over 9% in 2011-12 (when vannamei exports started picking up), the share of marine products in the country’s overall farm exports rose to almost 15% in 2015-16. Marine items now form the largest segment of the overall agricultural export basket.
Even though vannamei exports value dropped in the last fiscal, thanks to the broader slide in commodity prices that affected per-unit realisation, the volume of the outbound shipments rose, suggesting robust demand.
“Given the country’s extensive coastline, abundant marine resources and a tropical climate that lends itself to aquaculture production all year round, India has tremendous potential to be a leading global seafood player well-connected in distribution markets.
Vannamei will continue as the key contributor to the sector and is in growing demand as a candidate species in aquaculture in the coastal states of India,” Marine Products Exports Development Authority chairman Jayathilak A told FE.
He added that for a sustainable shrimp industry and to retain the unit value realisation of vannamei, the country needs to go for value addition in accordance with global demand.