Alarming article from The Hindu about use of Antibiotics in Poultry

Even though article is about poultry, learning for aquaculture can be found and useful for the sector

The Hindu and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism unravel how the use of a last-hope antibiotic like colistin is leading to worldwide drug resistance

In a warehouse on a farm in Ranga Reddy district near Hyderabad, a clutch of chicks has just been delivered. Some 5,000 birds peck at one another as they loiter around their shed that will become cramped as they grow. Bags containing their feed for five weeks are stacked outside the shed. Some of the chicks gulp down a yellow liquid (sugar water) from plastic containers. “Now the supervisor will come, and we will start giving the chicks the medicines prescribed by him,” says the farm caretaker.

The medicines, antibiotics, are given to the birds to protect them from diseases or to make them gain weight faster, so that more can be grown each year for greater profit. One drug typically given this way is colistin. Doctors call it the ‘last hope’ antibiotic because it is used to treat patients critically ill with infections that have become resistant to nearly all other drugs.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for the use of such antibiotics, which it calls “critically important to human medicines”, to be restricted in animals and banned as growth promoters. Their continued use in farming increases the chance of bacteria developing resistance to them, leaving them useless when treating patients.

‘Growth promoters’

Yet thousands of tonnes of veterinary colistin were shipped to countries, including Vietnam, India, South Korea and Russia, in 2016, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals. In India, at least five animal pharmaceutical companies are openly advertising products containing colistin as growth promoters.

One of these companies, Venky’s, is also a major poultry producer. Apart from selling animal medicines and creating its own chicken meals, it supplies meat directly and indirectly to fast food chains in India such as KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Domino’s.

Giving colistin to chicken is complete and utter madness: Timothy Walsh, Professor of Medical Microbiology, Cardiff University

In Britain, Venky’s is best known for having bought the football club Blackburn Rovers in 2010. They made a TV advert showing the team eating a Venky’s chicken dinner before playing a match, with the slogan “Good for you”. Since then Blackburn Rovers has dropped out of the Premiership, been relegated again, and is now in the third tier of English football — with fans protesting the club’s decline.

Venky’s sells colistin to farmers in India as a growth promoter. It comes in bags with pictures of happy-looking chickens on the packet. Instructions say the product “improves weight gain” and 50 grams should be added to each ton of chicken feed. The Bureau bought 200 g of Venky’s branded colistin — Colis V — over the counter from a poultry feed and medicines shop in Bengaluru without a prescription. There is no legal requirement for one in the country. In Europe, colistin is available to farmers only if prescribed by a vet for the treatment of sick animals.

Venky’s is not breaking any laws in the country by selling colistin and it said it will comply with any future regulatory changes. The company told the Bureau: “Our antibiotic products are for therapeutic use — although some of these in mild doses can be used at a preventive level, which in turn may act as growth promoters [...]We do not encourage indiscriminate use of antibiotics.”

Venky’s exported colistin to Nepal and Yemen last year, Customs data show. Other poultry companies are selling colistin products or importing it for use on farms, according to the data.

Venky’s also told the Bureau that in their own farms and those of their contractors, “antibiotics are used only for therapeutic purpose.”

McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut and Domino’s said the chicken they sourced from Venky’s is not raised on growth-promoting antibiotics and their suppliers follow their policies controlling their use of antibiotics.

McDonald’s has pledged to phase out the use of critically important antibiotics by 2018 for markets including the EU and the U.S. — with an extra year for phasing out colistin in Europe.

KFC has made a similar promise about its U.S. supply chains. They have promised to do the same in India, but without giving any timeframe.

Jubilant FoodWorks (which owns Domino’s) has set a date, of 2019, to start phasing out the drugs.

Resistant genes

Timothy Walsh, a global expert on antibiotic resistance, called the Bureau’s findings about the ready availability of colistin in India “deeply worrying”, and described the use of colistin in poultry farming as “complete and utter madness”.

Walsh, who is Professor of Medical Microbiology at Cardiff University, and his Chinese colleagues discovered a colistin-resistant gene in Chinese pigs in 2015. The gene, mcr-1, could be transferred within and between species of bacteria. That meant that microbes did not have to develop resistance themselves, they could become resistant just by acquiring the mcr-1 gene.

Indian farmers use antimicrobials as a substitute for good farming practices Ramanan LaxminarayanDirectorCentre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, New Delhi

The discovery was met with worldwide panic in the medical community as it meant the resistance could be passed to bugs which are already multi-drug resistant, leading to untreatable infections. Rampant use of the drug in livestock farming has been cited as the most likely way mcr-1 was spread. It has been detected in bacteria from animals and humans in more than 30 countries, spanning four continents. Another four colistin resistant genes (mcr-2 to mcr-5) have been discovered since. Colistin-resistant bacteria, once rare, are now widespread.

“Colistin is the last line of defence,” said Professor Walsh, who is also an adviser to the United Nations on antimicrobial resistance. “It is the only drug we have left to treat critically ill patients with a carbapenem-resistant infection. Giving it to chickens as feed is crazy.”

“Colistin-resistant bacteria will spread on the chicken farms, in the air surrounding them, contaminate the meat, spread to the farm workers and, through their faeces, flies will spread it over large distances,” he continued.

“Colistin should only be used on very sick patients. Under any other circumstances, it should be thought of and treated as an environmental toxin. It should be labelled as such. It should not be exported all over the world to be used in chicken feed.”

Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, also called for a worldwide ban on the use of not just colistin but all antibiotics as growth promoters. “If we have not banned growth promotion within five years we will have failed the global community,” she told the Bureau.

Drug resistance has been called one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development by the WHO. If antimicrobials stop working, doctors won’t have effective drugs to treat deadly infections. Currently the problem is thought to kill 700,000 people worldwide — one person a minute — though these figures have been disputed by some academics. The death toll is expected to rise to 10 million by 2050 if no action is taken, with 4.7 million of those deaths in Asia. Common procedures like joint replacements, Caesarean sections, organ transplants and chemotherapy could also become too risky to carry out.

The Bureau has tracked more than 2,800 tonnes of colistin for use on animals shipped to India, Vietnam, South Korea, Russia, Nepal, Guatemala, Colombia, Bolivia, Mexico and El Salvador in 2016. The total is likely to be higher as the product may be shipped under its brand name rather than being labelled as colistin. By comparison, the U.K. uses less than a tonne a year of colistin in agriculture.

Colistin is manufactured by two companies in India but the country is also importing at least 150 tonnes of the drug a year.

India has been called the epicentre of the global drug resistance crisis. A combination of factors described as a ‘perfect storm’ have come together to hasten the spread of superbugs. Unregulated sale of the drugs for human or animal use — accessed without prescription or diagnosis — has led to unchecked consumption and misuse. India has a large population, some of whom defecate in the open, and waste is often poured untreated into rivers and lakes, creating the perfect conditions for bugs to share resistance.

Poor sanitation means people often catch infections that require treatment with antibiotics. Overuse of the drugs in hospitals has created antibiotic resistant hotspots, and poor infection control means these bugs spread within the hospital and into the community. Some of the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing antibiotics have also failed to dispose of antibiotic-ridden waste properly, fuelling the spread of resistant bugs in the environment.

All of these factors have led to high rates of resistance. In India, 57% of the Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria — which commonly cause urine, lung and bloodstream infections — are resistant to last-line antibiotics known as carbapenems. In the U.K., by comparison, the figure is below 1%. Doctors in some areas of the country see patients with pan-resistant infections (immune to nearly all antibiotics) at least once a month. The Centre does not collect figures on how many people are dying of resistant infections, but one study estimates drug-resistant infections kill 58,000 newborn babies every year.

Bugs bred in the country spread globally. One which particularly worried scientists is a gene called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1 (NDM-1), which makes bugs resistant to carbapenem antibiotics. This has been dubbed “the nightmare bacteria” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. because it kills half the patients who develop a bloodstream infection.

NDM-1 was first found in a patient who acquired it in India in 2008 and has since spread all over the world, with over 1,100 laboratory-confirmed cases in the U.K. since 2003. It is far from the only one being spread from the country. The mcr-1 gene, which confers colistin resistance, spread round the world in three years. Some 11% of travellers to India between January and August 2015 came home colonised with mcr-1 bacteria, a recent study found.

Fast-growing industry

In India, the poultry industry is booming. The amount of chicken produced doubled between 2003 and 2013. Chicken is popular because it can be eaten by people of all religions (pork is forbidden to Muslims and beef is generally not eaten by Hindus) and because it is versatile and affordable. The majority of poultry is now produced by commercial farms, contracted to major companies like Venky’s. Researchers who tested meat from supermarkets in the country in 2014 found it contained residues of six antibiotics, suggesting they were being used liberally on farms. (The Union Agriculture Ministry said the residues were well within the range allowed by international agencies.)

Experts predict the rising demand for protein will cause a surge in antibiotic use in livestock. India’s consumption of antibiotics in chickens is predicted to rise fivefold by 2030 compared to 2010, while globally the amount used in animals is expected to rise by 53%.

The WHO released guidelines in November 2017 recommending reduced use of critically important antibiotics in food-producing animals and banning their use as growth promoters. It also recommended banning the mass medicating of livestock with antibiotics to prevent disease.

Using antibiotics as growth promoters has been banned in the European Union since 2006, and was made illegal in the U.S. in 2017. In 2014 the Agriculture Ministry sent an advisory letter to all State governments asking them to review the use of antibiotic growth promoters. However, the directive was non-binding, and none have introduced legislation to date.

In its National Action Plan on AMR published in 2017, the Centre banned using antibiotics as growth promoters. The plan is not currently linked to any regulatory action.

Substitute for hygiene

Indian farmers use antimicrobials as a substitute for good farming practices, according to Professor Ramanan Laxminarayan, Director of the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, based in Delhi.

“If you go to the average poultry farm in Punjab, you see these are all lacking: the nutrition is not there, hygiene is awful. So they are using the antibiotics as a substitute to keep the animals alive,” he said. The reason this is done is because antibiotics are cheap. “If the true cost was factored in — the cost of resistance — it wouldn’t seem like such a good option,” he added.

He believes consumer pressure, rather than regulation, is what will drive change. He points out that much of the poultry consumption in India is through direct sales to consumers rather than fast food chains.

“Consumers [in the West] were previously unaware their chicken was being raised on antibiotics, and once they found out they didn’t want it,” he said. “In India, that level of awareness doesn’t exist. I think it needs social change. It needs leaders, it needs stories, it needs organisation. It’s the same for tobacco. Nobody smokes now indoors, nobody smokes around children. The level of awareness is further on than with antibiotics.”

Professor Walsh believes there is no time to waste for this change. “These resistant bugs aren’t waiting around, they are rapidly spreading,” he said.

“The antibiotic pipeline is modest at best, so we must act quickly to preserve our last-resort drugs. If we don’t act now, by 2030 colistin will be dead as a drug. We will have serious drug resistant infections and nothing to use against them.”

‘You know this is preventable’

A chick is seen inside a poultry farm in India. Photo for representational purpose.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Sanjeev Singh is a medical superintendent at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi, Kerala. He has to treat patients with multi-drug resistant infections up to three times a week and patients with pan-drug resistant infections (those immune to nearly all antibiotics) up to twice a month.

''The situation is grim. As a clinical practitioner, it becomes extremely difficult to treat a patient with multi-drug and pan-drug resistant organisms. You feel helpless. Despite being able to diagnose the patient, you are left with limited options. This increases the illness and mortality of the patients and cost of the care also shoots up. You have very limited options for treatment only because the rest of the people in the chain, which includes animal industry, policy makers, waste disposal people, have not played their role nicely. “You know this is preventable, but you see these patients crashing in front of you and dying. If it is happening to a young person who could have been so productive, it pains you.”

‘EU shouldn’t ban or blacklist seafood exporters over consignment issues’-Indian Seafood Exporters

Indian authorities have urged the European Union (EU) neither to ban nor blacklist any seafood exporter immediately if they have found problems with just one consignment as this 'extreme' step would work against the interests of all the stakeholders in the industry. "EU should issue a warning to the exporter, and give them reasonable time to remove the inadequacies before de-listing the company," said Chairman of Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) A Jayathilak. Jayathilak said this on Monday while chairing the EU-India Shrimp Dialogue organised in association with the Embassy of the Netherlands. The session was part of the three-day 21st India International Seafood Show 2018 held in Goa and organised jointly by MPEDA and Seafood Export Association of India (SEAI) from January 27 to 29. Instant blacklisting unjust Instant blacklisting is unjust as this also destroyed the exporters' reputation built over several years and jeopardised their huge investments in the cost-intensive business, besides affecting the livelihood of millions of farmers, Jayathilak said. EU, which is the third-largest market for Indian seafood exporters, has regularly been complaining about the presence of antibiotics in Indian shipments. In November 2017, an EU delegation was tasked to audit the control systems put in place in order to govern the production of exportable fishery products in India.

He reportedly exuded satisfaction on the quality of shrimp production. 40% increase in sample size demanded The MPEDA chairman also described EU's decision to increase the sample size from 10 per cent to 50 per cent for testing the seafood consignments from India unfair as the same was kept at 10 per cent for other exporting countries. The sample size was being kept at 10 per cent even for Vietnam and Bangladesh whose consignments had also failed the food safety tests, said SEAI General Secretary Elias Sait while endorsing MPEDA's pleas. Wojciech Dziowrski, counsellor for health and food safety for the EU delegation to India, countered this view saying a certain number of samples from India and these two countries tested positive. However, Sait argued that these countries could not be compared in terms of failed sample numbers as India's volume of export was quite high and the sample size was five times higher. Export Inspection Council (EIC) Director S K Saxena said that the twin blow — instant ban and 50 per cent sample size — was in place despite the fact that the quality control mechanism had been tightened further in the past two years. Some of the blacklistings were done on the basis of minuscule variations from the food quality benchmark, Saxena added. He also wanted the relisting to take place in suitable cases within a short time. Saxena said that India is in the process of asking EU to relist the wrongly de-listed companies and let them resume their business. He made the statement in response to concerns raised by seafood associations of Kerala and West Bengal that a number of companies, de-listed by EU due to wrong testing by labs in importing countries, were suffering for no fault of theirs. A number of consignments rejected by importing countries in Europe, for allegedly containing banned antibiotics and chemical substances beyond permissible limits, were found to be in order during further tests conducted in Indian laboratories, these associations said. Saxena suggested that exporters convince the importing companies in EU to get the failed samples tested in one more lab to prevent wrong rejections. A representative of farmers involved in shrimp farming suggested that quality tests should be conducted at the farm level rather than when the processing was over, adding that farmers were blamed even in cases where the processing sector was at fault.

Rapid Detection Kits for Adulterants in Fresh Fish developed by CIFT, Kochi

Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister, Shri Radha Mohan Singh today launched the Rapid Detection Kits for Adulterants in Fresh Fish, developed by Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT), Kochi. Ammonia helps in preventing ice from melting and use of formaldehyde increases the shelf life of fish therefore many people in the fisheries sector are using these chemicals. The kit helps in detecting both the chemicals in the fish. Shri Singh informed that continuous ingestion of ammonia and formaldehyde can lead to many health issues including abdominal pain, vomiting, unconsciousness, and sometimes even cause death. Union Agriculture Minister said it today at the launch of kit in New Delhi. Read more… “Rapid Detection Kits for Adulterants in Fresh Fish developed by CIFT, Kochi”

MPEDA, Switzerland’s COOP in pact for organic aqua farming

To cater to the growing demand for organic seafood products across the European Union, COOP Cooperative — one of Switzerland’s biggest retail and wholesale companies — has partnered with the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) to develop export-oriented organic aqua farming in India.

Mpeda will assist in identifying entrepreneurs and providing them with technical advice on the production of high-quality organic shrimp that meet national and international certification protocols.

COOP, which today has nearly 2,200 sales outlets throughout Switzerland and wholesale/production business across Europe, has offered to procure the processed organic shrimp at a premium of up to 15 per cent and with an additional 5 per cent through financing for development activities, including training.

The pilot project will be run in Kerala to produce organic black tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) initially in 1,000 hectares, and if successful, extended to other locations across the country.

According to A Jayathilak, Chairman, Mpeda, there is an increased awareness across Europe about organic produce and it constitutes a niche market. The reason why many farmers are hesitant to get into organic production is the increased costs involved. The premium price offered will offset the extra cost and incentivise them to explore organic farming.

Mpeda and COOP will facilitate the certification of a shrimp hatchery for the production of organic shrimp seed and similarly certify and empanel a small scale feed mill unit to source the organic feed for the project.

Gerard Zurlutter, Member of Management, COOP, said India would be their second leg in organic farming after Vietnam, where they have had success with similar projects and organic producers who are generating considerably higher revenues than conventional farmers.

Indian White Shrimp gets full marks in Demo farm at Andhra Pradesh by CIBA

Scientists at the Chennai-based Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA) have completed farming trials on Indian White Shrimp (Penaeus indicus) in all the maritime States in the country, including Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, establishing the species as prime alternative to the exotic vannammei.

A team of scientists led by CIBA Director K.K. Vijayan will share their findings on Indian White Shrimp cultivation with aqua farmers on Thursday (January 11).

The shrimp seed was collected from the Bay of Bengal and other parts of India for the trials which began in 2016 with the support of the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB).

“The results of the trials in a majority of the locations are encouraging to consider it as an alternative species to vannamei, which has been found prone to diseases,” CIBA principal scientist Akshaya Panigrahi told The Hindu over phone.

Mr. Akshaya is the principal investigator of the farming trials project. “The root causes for diseases in vannamei are yet to be fully known. Factors such as farming feasibility, survival and growth rate of the Indian White Shrimp are enabling us to recommend it is an alternative to the Vannamei,” said Mr. Akshaya.

Source: The Hindu


AP plans aqua zones to streamline Aquaculture

VIJAYAWADA: To control conversion of agricultural land into aqua ponds, and reduce use of antibiotics in hatcheries, Andhra Pradesh government is thinking of introducing aqua zones. The task force set up by the state government to streamline the fisheries sector has come up with various recommendations including aqua zones and closure of unauthorised shrimp hatcheries.
Introduction of zones will mean there will be streamlining of the industry. A task force member said , “We know that fisheries business is highly risky, and earns lot of benefits. Some kind of streamlining is required here, hence we have come up with this proposal. AP is a major state in aquaculture, and introduction of aqua zones will be a first in the country.”
Read more… “AP plans aqua zones to streamline Aquaculture”

Action plan for fisheries, aquaculture development in Vidharbha region released

Nagpur: A report, 'Development of fisheries and aquaculture in Vidarbha: Study and action plan', based on extensive research was released by state chief secretary Sumeet Mallick at a programme organized by Vidarbha Development Board and Maharashtra Animal and Fishery Sciences University (MAFSU) at divisional commissioner office here on Tuesday.
Mahadev Jankar, minister for animal husbandry and fisheries development, chief secretary Sumeet Mallick and divisional commissioner Anoop Kumar released a study report at a programme organized by Vidarbha Development Board and Maharashtra Animal and Fishery and Science University, at divisional commissioner's office, Civil Lines, on Tuesday
Divisional commissioner and MAFSU VC Anoop Kumar along with state's senior cabinet minister Mahadev Jankar was also present on the occasion .Collectors of various regions, officials of state fisheries department, representatives of Maharashtra State Fisheries Corporation and other associates also attended the programme.

"The bureaucrats and members of judiciary should posses a strong desire to adapt to new methods of growth to bring in reforms, only then a project can be implemented successfully," Jankar said. He also spoke about introducing policies to help the market flourish and upgrade factors involved in the process of fish production, including labour skills, cold storage and irrigation.

Jankar also lauded Kumar's inclination towards blue revolution and 'Fish in every pond' initiative.

The fish trading market in Vidarbha is still highly unorganized and unregulated. The Mayo fish market of Nagpur, Bengali camp fish market, Chandrapur, Athawadi bazaar fish market, Yavatmal and Itwara bazaar fish market of Amravati can be easily identified as the core markets in respect to the fish marketing system, the report said.

The consumer behaviour, challenges, technical drawbacks and plan for development was compiled in the detailed report carrying information collected after surveying different water bodies of the region.

Emphasizing on the major recommendations, animal husbandry, dairy development and fisheries secretary Vikas Deshmukh said, "The adoption of different culture technologies as per the type of water body in Vidarbha region could increase the annual fish production."

According to him, creation of additional positions in the department of fisheries at the district level for establishing dedicated, professional and efficient extension services system at par with their counterparts in agriculture and allied sub-sectors like animal husbandry, horticulture and dairy is important. This system shall have its network reaching at block and panchayat levels to bring all aquaculture and fisheries resources, public, private, community and multi-owned under its fold, he said.

"Review of existing fish seed production and rearing centres for their strengthening and capacity development is a must. Dysfunctional and under-performing fish production centres should be operational to their fullest capacity. The fish seed production centres under the MFDC shall be withdrawn and handed over to DoF for development," Deshmukh said.


Source: Times of India

Chandranna Aqua Farmers’ Centre opened in Krishna dt., Andhra Pradesh

Deputy Speaker Mandali Buddha Prasad and Krishna district Collector B. Lakshmikantam on Tuesday inaugurated the Chandranna Aqua Farmers’ Centre that is aimed at helping the aqua farmers adopt latest brackish water practices, at Pata Upakali village. The Fisheries Department primarily focused on grooming the farmers in wild crab fattening and rearing technology, apart from encouraging them to tap solar power to maintain the pond.

Wild crab farming

The aim of the centre was to offer a demonstration on wild crab farming to the farmers. Fisheries Department Joint Director Md. Yakub Basha said that an estimated 4,000 farmers in the Diviseema area of the district would be keen on crab farming, and all the farmers could bank on the centre for basic training.

Mr. Lakshmikantam promised to supply aerators and other equipment on subsidy, apart from guaranteeing financial assistance from the banks for those wanting to take up wild crab farming.

M.V.K.R. Government Fisheries Polytechnic College teaching staff and students were present

Source: The Hindu

Game changer seafood park to be ready in Odisha by early 2018

Seafood processing is also high on the Odisha State’s agenda. A Sea Food Park with a state-sponsored investment of ₹134 crore is coming up at Deras, near the State capital, which will be functional in early 2018. The park stands on 150 acres and seafood processed there would be primarily meant for exports.

Twenty firms have committed investments worth ₹466 crore in the park. Odisha is targeting seafood exports worth ₹20,000 crore per year in the next five years. From Mumbai, Kader Investment and Trading, the largest seafood exporter, is planning to invest ₹55 crore in a seafood processing unit at Deras.

“It is going to be the best by any international standards. The industry department is providing the packaging facility, cold storage, refrigerated vans, waste treatment plant, administrative building and even power and water to the units,” said Mr.Sanjeev Chopra, the State’s Principal Secretary, Industries.

“The Sea Food Park will be a game changer in seafood processing not only in Odisha but in India,” said Sanjay Kumar Singh, CMD, Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation, which is responsible for supplying land and infrastructure to industrial units. The park will process 90,860 MTPA of seafood and employ more than 7,200 people.

Source:  The Hindu

Big boost: Post floods, fishes teem in Bihar waters

Patna, Dec. 15 -- The impact of floods early this year in Bihar may have been devastating. But there are indications that the deluge has given a big boost to fishery with seed production reaching 700 million due to abundance of water bodies after drought-like situation in the last seven years.

Officials now say Bihar will be able to realise its ambition of becoming self-sufficient in fish and even become an exporting state in the next couple of years.

Animal husbandry and fisheries department director Nishat Ahmed said: "If the present production of fish seeds and supplementary feed was maintained, we will be self-sufficient and exporting state in two years time."

Bihar produces five lakh tonnes of fish against its annual requirement of 7 lakh tonnes. The state imports around 1.43 lakh tonnes of fish, mainly Rohu and Katla, from Andhra Pradesh annually.

States like West Bengal and Odisha are also a major supplier of fish, like Hilsa, Pomfret, prawns and some other varieties found in the Gangetic basin.

"Floods in Bihar has helped in recharging water bodies in dry areas of Vaishali, Samastipur and Begusarai districts of north Bihar. This has helped in increasing fish seed production and starting new hatcheries. Our production capacity is set to increase by the next harvest," said Ahmed.

Bihar's fish production was expected to gallop to over 7 lakh tonnes in the next two years and could easily achieve the target of 8.02 lakh tonnes by 2022 as per the government's agricultural road map, Ahmad added.

So, would the state stop importing fish from Andhra Pradesh?

Ahmed was confident that home grown fish would be cater to the needs of state fish lovers and insisted that already four districts - Darbhanga, Purnia, Banka and Khagaria - had stopped importing from the coastal state.

"Price of fish, be it Rohu or Katla, crashed in Khagaria district of north Bihar due to overproduction this year. In some parts of the district, fish produced in ponds were being sold at Rs 120 per kg against Rs 250 in Patna," he added.

There is now focus on producing only fish like Rohu, Katla and Naini, given that these varieties had better yield per hectare. "We are opening one big centre for supplementary feed in Madhepura, besides those in Patna, Muzaffarpur, Samastipur and Motihari. Supplementary feed is important for fish production as otherwise we have to be dependent on other states," added Ahmed.

Source: HT Digital streams Ltd