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November 17, 2021

A general view of India's aquaculture feed industry


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India's aquaculture feed industry can be divided into the following sub-sectors: shrimp feed and freshwater fish feed.

However, both sectors have been impacted by the non-utilisation of feed production capacities.

With an installed capacity of 3.6 million tonnes, India's shrimp feed production is expected to range between 1.2 million tonnes to 1.4 million tonnes this year — 10-12% lower than 2019. Still, the Indian shrimp feed market is projected to reach 1.8 million tonnes by 2024, registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% in 2019-2024. Common ingredients used include fishmeal, fish oil, wheat flour, distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGS), corn gluten meal and soybean meal.

In India, Andhra Pradesh is the leading producing state for shrimps and fish, accounting for 65-70 % of the local market share.

According to India's Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), year-on-year shrimp production increased by 31% between 2019 (804,000 tonnes) and 2018 (615,692 tonnes). The country's shrimp exports grew by 8% (667,140 tonnes), representing 83% of total domestic shrimp production in 2019.

This year, more than 30 feed companies are involved in producing shrimp feed, which was produced to around 1.2 million tonnes annually.

However, prices of raw materials like soybean meal have increased drastically. Shrimp feed millers had to increase feed prices three times in a year to reduce their losses. Fishmeal and fish oil production also dropped almost by 25-30%. These decreases are linked to persisting issues with raw material supplies, and it is expected that the demand for shrimp feed will increase as pond stocking by farmers increases.

Government support is needed in terms of finance, tax concessions and security to help shrimp farmers. Meanwhile, better pond and feed management practices should improve yields and production. For now, farmers are implementing low stocking density with a clear focus on a medium count for international and domestic markets. Strong domestic demand will help sustain the industry in dealing with the potential risks and fluctuations in international markets.

Additionally, more innovative approaches are needed to reach consumers worldwide which will help the industry to increase exports.

As for India's total freshwater fish production, it was 10.4 million tonnes in 2019-20. The Indian government aims to increase this figure to 22.0 million tonnes by 2024-25.

A combination of key Indian carp — including catla, rohu and basa — were used as the main target species for culturing (some Chinese carp species like silver carp, grass carp and common carp, are also used). Furthermore, the growth of pangasius farming was significantly supported by the introduction of extruded feeds.

The first extrusion feed mill in India was inaugurated in 2008; this was followed by the construction and operation of various feed mills.

Currently, there are 30 fish feed mills in India with a collective installed capacity of 2.0 million tonnes per annum. But the demand for extruded formulated fish feed did not increase proportionately with installed feed capacities — one of the main reasons being a narrow range of species that are farmed in India. The country relies largely on carps, which can be fed with various feedstuff combinations other than formulated feed.

It is important to note that, when the farm gate price of carps is economical to the farmer, they are fed with good, highly-priced feeds, but when prices drop, fish are fed with low-cost, supplemental feed ingredients.

Most of India's aqua feed production is used for the farming of pangasius and red belly pacu; these are known to be aggressive feed consumers. Meanwhile, as for tilapia, farming of the fish has yet to make a mark in India.

The feed conversion ratio (FCR) of formulated feed is around 1.5 as compared to the traditional fish feeds (3.0 to 4.0) to a kilogramme of fish production. Currently, few feed mills can produce feeds for other species like the Asian sea bass, snakeheads, pompano and cobia.

Focusing on the high-tech feed mills currently producing fish feed, this sector has generated several local employment opportunities for both skilled and unskilled workers in rural India. Allied sectors like feed equipment manufacturers, feed additive and raw material suppliers and other infrastructure support for this new sector are also contributing to this development.

Generally speaking, most of India's aquaculture is still based on traditional farming methods. It is not without question that converting them to modern farming methods will increase fish production and address the sustainability of production.


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