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When fish farmers did not have to wait for customers

SHILLONG: The State Central Library premises wore a business-like look on Wednesday when the place was transformed into a fish-market popularly known as ‘Basa Dohkha’ in Khasi, with the inauguration of the 1st Aquafest here in the city.

Thousands of people thronged the premises of State Central Library here on Wednesday to get a glimpse of the variety of fresh fish being marketed by the state’s own farmers of Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills.

Organised by the department of Fisheries, Aquafest is a two-day event to showcase the developments taking place in the fisheries sector, under the Meghalaya State Aquaculture Mission. It was also an opportunity to market the fresh fish produced locally by the farmers of Khasi and Jaintia-Hills district.

As many as 1000 farmers from all over the state exhibited the different variety of fish and fish products here with Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills focusing on smoked and dried fish. The fish on display were of different sizes some weighing as much as 8-10 Kgs.

According to Commissioner and Secretary, Fisheries Department, KN Kumar, the department has organised for 10 metric tonnes of fish to be brought in during the two-day event and the quantity would change depending on the public demand.

“The fish is sold at a uniform price of Rs 150 per Kg, which is much lesser than the actual market price. This is done to attract people from all corners of the city and the state as a whole,” Kumar said.

He highlighted that the state imports 25,000 metric tonnes of fish annually from other parts of the country and the bulk of it comes from Andhra Pradesh. To bridge the huge demand-supply gap, the state has adopted an approach to invest in fish farmers primarily and to provide requisite infrastructure and training programmes for smooth implementation of the state aquaculture mission.

When asked about the time-frame to bridge this gap, Kumar said that the department is looking at the target of producing 25000 metric tonnes annually by 2016. He also informed that there are at present 6518 fish ponds across the state and the unit cost of each pond is Rs 1 lakh spread over one hectare of land.

“Of the Rs one lakh required for investment in a fish pond, 60% is contributed by the Government, 25 % is bank assistance while farmers contribute 15 % of the cost,” Kumar said.

The Aquaculture mission is one of the nine missions launched by the State Government in 2012 under the Meghalaya Basin Development and Livelihood Promotion Programme to develop human resources by enhancing employability and earning potential of the people, especially in rural areas.

Earlier, delivering the inaugural address, Chief Secretary WMS Pariat lauded the stakeholders for their hard work, dedication and sincerity in the successful implementation of the mission which had proved successful within a very short time.

He reiterated that along with hard work, there are other factors which have added to its success included the enthusiasm and sense of participation and ownership of fish farmers after being provided the required capacity building and support by the concerned department and financial linkages with various financial institutions.

Pariat also released a book on the history of MSAM and distributed prizes to the winners of the drawing and painting competition titled “Fish for Life,” organised under various categories including the disabled and participated by different schools of the city.

Awards for Excellence in Fishery Sector have also been instituted by the government to acknowledge, recognize and reward the extraordinary and innovative work done by fish farmers, communities, NGOs, SHGs in the state.

The recipient of this award included Kwuid Rynjah of East Khasi Hills, Buhryntih Marwein of West Khasi Hills, Mawthawpdoh Area Rilang Fishery Association of South West Khasi Hills, Weris Tariang of Ri Bhoi, Lamsing Tynsong of east Jaintia Hills and Jaintia Fishing Association of West Jaintia Hills. The awardees were gifted with a memento, certificate and cash prize for the year 2013-14.

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