Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, Mar 26, 2002
Agri-Biz & Commodities
Scampi scampering for survival
KOCHI, March 25
"IN this land of comrades, Communists and non-conformists, green fields are being sown with red flags instead of crops,'' a senior Central Government official said. Politics has been reigning supreme over not just economics, but over agriculture as well in Kerala.
While growth and extension in the cultivation of scampi, the giant fresh water prawn, has been stunted due to a vicious political campaign, neighbouring States such as Andhra Pradesh have been reaping rich rewards from its harvests.
``While scampi cultivation has at best remained stagnant in the State, it has recorded a 50 per cent compound growth rate in Andhra Pradesh during the past five years,'' senior officials in the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) pointed out.
Scampi is a native of the backwaters and paddy fields of Kerala. Production of scampi in Andhra Pradesh has grown from around 2,500 tonnes to 16,000 tonnes in just over five years, the sources said.
In Kerala too, scampi had been identified as an ideal inter-crop along with the cultivation of paddy. While paddy crop would take four months to harvest, the scampi would mature in the next seven months. With returns from its cultivation proving to be several times the returns from paddy, a large number of Kuttanad farmers had shown interest in cultivating scampi.
But politics has stood in the way of its extension. With undue apprehensions that extension of scampi cultivation would hinder their livelihood, the large and militant agricultural labourers of Kuttanad have been protesting against the rearing of scampi in paddy fields.
The protest from the fishing community has been even stranger. While conceding that the land and the feed used might be that of the paddy field owner, they claim fish and fishing rights because the water used is common property, sources in MPEDA said.
The issue has assumed political overtones, scaring away potential cultivators from this seemingly dangerous pursuit.
Sources agreed that scampi cultivation would prove attractive to the farmers since, unlike paddy cultivation, it is not only least labour-intensive but is pursued when the fields are lying fallow after the harvest.
But they said that paddy cultivation would be imperative for the farmer since the stalks left standing after the paddy harvest would be ideal protection and feed for scampi in the early stages of their growth cycle. As it is, most farmers cultivate paddy in Kuttanad only once. And that labour security would continue to prevail.
It is an ideal inter-crop, which will greatly supplement the income of the farmers and add to the foreign exchange earnings of the State.
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