The Government is banking on fisherwomen from across the country’s several coastal States to help it not only achieve the eco-friendly seaweed production target of 11.5 lakh tonnes from the current levels of 2,500 tonnes in the next five years but also make presence felt in the growing global market.
“When fishermen are out in the ocean to catch fishes, their female folks can take up the seaweed vocation which has a huge market, domestic as well abroad. It is a profitable livelihood option for fisherwomen, who can earn a substantial income for the household with little effort ,” Fisheries Secretary Rajiv Ranjan said recently here.
The idea is to make the coastal communities particularly women to become self reliant through these eco- friendly business practice of macro algae which needs little investment and technology, he added.
He knows better. Globally, seaweed production is USD12-15 billion and is expected to grow to USD26 billion by 2026. Currently, China and Indonesia have 80 per cent of the market share.
“Even if India aims only for the low-hanging fruits in the sector, it can easily achieve the target itset. Currently, seaweed production in India is primarily confined to the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay in Tamil Nadu,” Ranjan said at a curtain raiser event here for an international webinar on entrepreneurship development on seaweed business to be held on January 28.
This can be achieved by using just 1 per cent of its 8,000-kilometre-long coastline, the official added.
The government has already setup a fund of around Rs 640 crore for boosting seaweed cultivation in the country, a part of the Rs 20,000-crore flagship scheme PM Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY).
Seaweed farming in India has minimum capital and technological requirements, Ranjan said adding that currently around 25,000 people are involved in the vocation, the target is to increase it to 4 lakh persons.
The webinar, to be organised by the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC), together with Department of Fisheries, will dwell on how fisherwomen cooperatives can be created for encouraging seaweed cultivation at a large scale across several coastal States in the country, said NCDC’s Managing Director, Sundeep Kumar Nayak.
He said, if the available resources are harvested to its optimal level, it can provide employment to many women from the coastal communities in harvesting sector and an equal number in post-harvest activities.
He also said that the webinar will be attended by the experts from verticals of the seaweed sector which is used in plethora of products whether it is pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, human food, animal feed, agriculture, production of bio-fuel, and wastewater management. They are often termed as the ‘Medical Food of the 21st Century’ due to their use in treatment of goitre, cancer, bone-replacement therapy and cardiovascular surgeries.
Indicating that seaweed is going to become way of farming soon in the coastal region which is highly vulnerable to climate change threats, Dr Ranjan had last week inspected seaweed cultivation in the coastal areas of Mandapam and Rameswaram island and held discussions with stakeholders particularly to industry and SHGs to formulate a plan of action for promotion of seaweed cultivation in the region.
In the last four months, the Fisheries Department has sanctioned a few seaweed projects in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Lakshdweep, Andaman while talks are on with Kerala. These are low hanging fruits, he said adding that a three-pronged strategy is being adopted at production level, industrial level and marketing level. Idea is to produce and market to industry, he added.