Shillong, November 6: For fifty- six year old Weris Talang switching from crop cultivation to fish rearing proved to be an economically sound decision as he is now reaping its benefit as his income has almost doubled. He is one of the few fish farmers whose success story might give critics a reason to ponder on whether it is sound to oppose converting agriculture lands into fish ponds.
Talang told this website on the sideline of the “First Meghalaya State Aquafest, 2013” on Wednesday at the State central library that as an agriculturist he was making Rs 88, 000 annually from rice cultivation. He said, “As a cultivator I was producing forty-four mon (one mon equals to forty kgs) and earning Rs 88, 000 as I use to sell a mon of rice for Rs 200 five years ago.”
Talang, who belongs to Umlangpur village under the Raid Mawet in Ri Bhoi district, has fish ponds over four hectares of land. He produces around 2, 500 tons of fish annually and said he earns around one lakh, fifty thousand rupees annually which makes his family of four economically self- sufficient. With the Meghalaya State Aquaculture Mission in place, he is planning to gradually increase the number of his fish ponds as he smells a windfall soon through fish farming.
The two days Aquafest, which was inaugurated by Meghalaya chief secretary WMS Pariat on Wednesday, is expected to draw around one thousand fish farmers from Khasi, Jaintia and Ri Bhoi districts. These fish farmers will not only be displaying their fishes but will also be selling. It is a mini buyers-sellers meet organized by the Meghalaya Fisheries department. The department is hoping that the fish farmers will be able to sell around 10 MT of fishes in the two days Aquafest.
Six fish farmers from the Khasi, Jaintia and Ri Bhoi districts were also given citation and cash awards during the inauguration of the Aquafest for being a role-model to other fish farmers.
Another such “Aquafest” will be organized in Tura on November 15 to enable the fish farmers from the five districts of Garo hills to showcase and sell fresh fishes to the consumers.
As of now, fishes are supplied from Andhra Pradesh to Meghalaya covering thousands of kilometers as the state does not produce enough fishes to meet the consumers’ requirement. Meghalaya gets around 25,000 MT of fishes from Andhra Pradesh annually.
Looking at the huge fish market the Meghalaya government launched the Meghalaya State Aquaculture Mission last year not only to meet the culinary and employment demand within the state, but also to provide the consumers with fresh and healthy fishes- a source of vitamins.
Meghalaya fisheries department principal secretary KN Kumar said that over 6000 fish ponds will be put in place at an estimate cost of Rs 65.18 crores under the Meghalaya State Aquaculture Mission which will increase the fish production to around 20, 000 MT by 2018.
Kumar also informed that the production from these fish ponds under the Meghalaya State Aquaculture Mission will begin from June-July of 2014.
Meghalaya chief secretary WMS Pariat said in his inaugural address that within a short span the Meghalaya State Aquaculture Mission has proved to be an extremely successful one because of the enthusiasm shown by the fish farmers, who are the stakeholders, and also the officials of the state fisheries department who have equipped them with the knowledge and techniques needed to be a successful fish farmers.
Pariat also acknowledged the active involvement of the Meghalaya Cooperative Apex Bank (MCAB) and State Bank of India (SBI) in lending their support to the fish farmers in providing all the financial assistance to them. – By Our Reporter