Freshwater fish farmers in Vadodara (India) are increasingly using urea and other chemical fertilisers to boost production. With better subsidies for procuring seeds, the farmers use fertilisers during the nursing period to better the yield.
The farmers are facing stiff competition from their counterparts in Andhra Pradesh. They said fish and prawns from the state are unfit for consumption.
"In Andhra, they nurse the fish and prawn seeds with pig stock and beef, which we cannot use as it is against our belief. Instead, fertilisers help in nursing, as it provides the same nutrients required during the nursery phase," said Ravi Kahar, the secretary of the Inland Fishermen Association, who has about nine ponds in Jarod village on the outskirts of Vadodara.
The additional director of fisheries in Vadodara, C N Khatri, said the fish farmers use feed such as the bran of rice, wheat waste and vegetable wastes. They use chemical fertilisers, which supply a good amount of nitrogen for the underwater soil that leads to more plankton growth in the ponds. "One of the reasons that we are undergoing the registration process of the fishermen across the state is to encourage the best practices in nursing the seeds of fish and prawns," added Khatri.
Fish farmers do not see any threat in using fertilisers in the ponds and village tanks. "Nothing has happened to our cattle or any human after drinking water from these ponds. We use urea twice a year: about 2 kg every time for the nursery," added Kahar.
He said a fish farmer has to spend Rs 8,000-10,000 to buy one-lakh fish or prawn seeds. Transporting the seeds, which can only be procured from Narmada district, costs around Rs 25,000.
Kahar estimates that in Vadodara district, there are about 150 waterbodies used by fish farmers, whereas the fisheries department puts it around 50.
Fish farmers in Vadodara can distinguish between fish such as Rohu from the ones that enter the local market from Andhra Pradesh. "The fish and prawns from Andhra are bigger in size due to the amount of meat they are fed. But the smaller prawns taste better. Exporters in Bharuch prefer our stock, which we feed with vegetable wastes and rice bran," said Jagadish Kahar, an Ajwa fisherman.
Meanwhile, lack of better marketing facilities such as a wholesale market has been a major impediment for the fish farmers in the district.
"I can privately market my fish, but what about the poor fishermen? For the last two years, we have been asking everyone from the local MLAs to the collector to set up a wholesale market for fish. Agreed, there are a few non-vegetarians in Gujarat, but people in Vadodara eat a lot of non-vegetarian food. If the state fisheries can have markets in Ahmedabad and Bharuch, why not Vadodara?" Kahar said.