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Friday, March 31, 2023
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Indian aquaculture during COVID 19

Dr Karthik Ramachandran

Pandemic 2019 novel Coronavirus (COVID 19) has posed an unparalleled challenge to humanity. Every industry is disrupted. The aquaculture industry is no exception. China is the largest importer of Indian shrimps. China being the source of COVID 19 will take time to normalize the trade. As far as the local market is concerned, misinformation about the consumption of fish and meat has spread fast in social media, thereby creating fears in the minds of consumers.

Since the COVID 19 is the resultant of zoonotic spillover from China’s wild market, people easily believe the fake news and misinformation. However, being an Aquaculture Consultant and Microbiologist, I reassure you that there is no strain of Covid 19 in fishes or shrimps.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding the safety of consumer products, ‘As of now, there’s no evidence of COVID-19 transmission through food.’ Bats being a natural reservoir of COVID 19 virus, the virus has evolved to survive at temperatures as high as 105 °F. Cooking seafoods thoroughly to a temperature of 145°F and meats at 165°F will surely destroy all food pathogens.

It is extremely disheartening to see that farmers are worried about their produces as the demand for fish products both in the domestic and international markets has fallen sharply.

It takes farmers more than 120 days to culture shrimps and 8 to 10 months to culture fishes. During this time, the farmer has to invest on feed, feed supplements, electricity, motors, aerators, and diesel, etc.  All his hard work and investment go down drain due to the lack of awareness amongst the consumers.

As far as processed and already packaged seafood are concerned, companies and exporters are also bearing the brunt. After their stocks are exhausted, they may face problems finding the produce as farm activities have been virtually stopped due to a shortage of labor and transport. Hence, it is very important for the consumers and the government to support the farmers today at this hour of crisis.

Farmers who are still continuing their cultures are facing the problems of logistics. Non-availability of animal feed will increase the mortality of fish and shrimp. Lockdown is also absolutely essential to contain the spread of the virus. At the same time, the government should take into consideration that seafood is a highly perishable commodity. Though the government has exempted fisheries activities from lockdown, yet lack of sincere implementation at ground level continues to bother farmers.

(The author is the Director of Vetbiotics Animal Healthcare Pvt Ltd (Mumbai). The company wishes to act as a voice for responsible aquaculture during this time of crisis. We can be reached at vbiotics@gmail.com)