Wednesday, May 6, 2015

06/05/2015: Carp production in India: Present status and prospects

by Dr B Laxmappa, Fisheries Development Officer, Department of Fisheries, Mahabubnagar, India

First published in International Aquafeed, March-April 2015

World freshwater fish farming produced a total of about 50 million tonnes in 2012.  The main fish family in production was the Cyprinidae (carp family). India is the second largest producer in the world, a long way behind to China. Inland fish production in India has increased at a higher rate since 1980.  

Carp is a common name for various species of freshwater fish of the family Cyprinidae, a very large group of fish native to Europe and Asia. Cyprinids particularly the wide variety of carp species, represent a cheap source of protein for subsistence aquaculture in “warm” temperate and subtropical countries. 

Present status
In India carp production is coming from both the systems of inland resources i.e. capture and aquaculture.

Inland capture fisheries: The inland water resources of the country are in terms of 29,000 km of rivers, 0.3 million ha of estuaries, 0.19 million ha of backwaters and lagoons, 3.15 million ha of reservoirs, 0.2 million ha of floodplain wetlands and 0.72 million ha of upland lakes, which contributes about 1.05 million tonnes of fish annually. The 14 major, 44 medium and innumerable small rivers of the country provide for one of the richest inland fish faunal resources of the world. The principal rivers of India as Yamuna, Ganga, Brahmaputra, Mahanandi, Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery including their main tributaries and distributaries harbors about 11.5 percent of the fish fauna so far know in the world.

Freshwater aquaculture: Ponds and tanks are the prime resources for freshwater aquaculture; however, only about 40 percent of the available area is used for aquaculture currently. Ponds in eastern India are typically homestead ponds of less than 1 ha in size, while the watersheds in western India are larger covering expanses of between 15–25 ha each. In northern India, open waters with in-flows are common, while southern India has watersheds, termed as tanks, largely used for crop irrigation along with carp fish culture.
Carp culture forms the backbone to freshwater aquaculture practice in India.  India, as the second largest aquaculture producer in the world, has the major contribution from freshwater aquaculture, whose share in inland fisheries has gone up from 46 percent in the 1980s to over 85 percent in the recent years. Carp production is increasing tremendously throughout the India since 1991 and caters to the tastes of all classes of people ranging from aristocratic urban consumers to the rural poor (Table: 1 & Image: 1). 

Carp form the mainstay of aquaculture practice in India contributing over 85 percent of the total aquaculture production. The three Indian major carps, viz. catla (Catla catla) rohu (Labeo rohita) and mrigal (Cirrhinus mrigala) contribute bulk of the production in the country, whereas the three domesticated exotic carp such as silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) and common carp (Cyprinus carpio) from the second important group. 

To incorporate several other medium and minor carps into the carp polyculture systems, several methods were used because of their religion-specific consumer preference and higher market demand besides their growth potential. Some of these included kalbasu (Labeo calbasu), fringe-lipped carp (L. fimbriatus), bata (L. bata), Malabar labeo (L. dussumieri), olive barb (Puntius sarana), Jerdon’s barb (P. jerdoni), Cauvery carp (Cirrhinus cirrhosa) etc. Out of 266 carp species available in Indian region, about 34 carp species are economical and which are produced mainly from capture fishery, and less than 10 carp species are produced from both the aquaculture and capture fishery in the country (Table: 2 - click HERE).

The research and development efforts during last six decades have placed the carps farming as an importance economic enterprise revolutionised the fresh water aquaculture section to the level of a fast growing industry. The nation mean the production levels from still-water ponds as gone up from about 600 Kg/ha/year in 1974 to over 2.5 tonnes  /ha /year at present, and several farmers are even demonstrating higher production levels of eight to 12 tonnes / ha / year. Carp culture, expanded its dimensions from 1984 in terms of area coverage and intensity of operation, with Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, etc. taking of fish culture as a commercial farming enterprise.
Chinese hatchery introduction in the country in the year 1980s led to the large-scale production of carp seed in the country and the spread of carp culture technology.  The carp culture technology has been popularised throughout the country and the average productivity levels are reported to around 2200 kg/ha/year in the polyculture systems of carp.

Seed raring and grow-out cultures are the two main components of carp culture technology, which have undergone several modifications and refinements over the years to evolve to the present day package of farming practices. Culture systems, from extensive to intensive, have been developed depending on the varied input use. The technologies of seed rearing, comprising rearing spawn to fry in nursery and farther fried to fingerlings in rearing ponds have been accepted as economically viable activities farmer’s level throughout the country. Indian freshwater aquaculture is mostly based on few species e.g. about 90 percent of production is contributed by Indian major carp viz., Catla, Rohu and Mrigala and exotic carp viz., Silver carp, Grass carp and Common carp (Table: 3).  

Carp culture is undertaken mostly in earthen ponds, irrigational tanks, reservoirs etc of varying dimensions. Over the years, several culture practices were evolved in the country for different water resources utilising a wide spectrum of fish species, fertilisers and feed resources as main inputs. The standardised packages of practices for carp polyculture include pond preparation, liming, fertilisation, stocking management, supplementary feeding, water quality management, health management etc. With an understanding of the biological basis of fish production, a series of systems are available with varying levels of inputs and outputs (Table: 4).

Farmers of Andhra Pradesh, particularly in the Krishna, East Godavari and West Godavari Districts has innovated several new techniques of carp culture and those have contributed to increase the carp culture productivity in the country substantially.  Farmers in this state are now able to get an average production of 8000 kg/ha/year with Rohu as the most dominant species in the culture system.  This impressive production has been made possible by adapting the following various techniques in culture system:

  • Stocking of stunted fingerlings of larger initial weight.
  • Regular feeding with farm made feed consisting largely of rice bran mixed with different types of oil cakes and mineral mixtures.        
  • Heavy fertilisation with both organic manures and inorganic fertilisers.
  • Proper tank / pond management from stocking to harvesting time
Similar spectacular developments in carp culture have taken place in the state of Punjab and the farmers have modified the technology to suit their areas and obtain an average production of more than 5000 kg/ha/year.  Besides these two states, West Bengal on Eastern part of the country not only produces significant amount of carp, but also most of the production from the states like Andhra Pradesh have been reaching fish markets in West Bengal and other Eastern States.
Though the country is producing significant level of carp production still there is a scope to enhance the carp production further. 

Seed: The country is self sufficient for fry production at present but non – availability of quality fingerlings of desired species and size has been a major constraint over the years in carp farming. The fingerling rearing process is often ignored due to shortage of rearing space in carp farming. Higher cost involvement and cumbersome process of long distance transportation of fingerlings also forces the farmers resorting to stocking their tanks/ponds with fry, often in irrational quantity, which leads to poor survival and low production. The culture technology recommends different species ratios of the carp species depending on their combination; the farmers do not have any choice but to depend on the seed supply by the seed farm/vendors.  Such a situation often leads to irrational stocking and this failing to harvest at potential level. 

Feed and manures:
In many tanks / ponds in the country though continue carp culture activity, productivity levels in small ponds have declined since most farmers resort to stocking large number of fish seed without providing any other inputs like feed and manures in significant quantities. Feed costs are also increased significantly in the market and fish cost was not enhanced proportionately.

Keeping in view of these constraints, there is a large yield gap between potential production and actual productions obtained. For example, the research and farmers in Andhra Pradesh have demonstrated the potential for obtaining over 15 tones / ha production in carp culture and, the national average presently is  around 2.20 tonnes / ha and in some states it is much lower.  Hence it is necessary to reassess the methods being followed for transfer of research outputs to the farming community. 

Carp culture in India, during the last five decades, has grown in geographical coverage with diverse systems, besides intensification of farming practices. A concern however is with regard to species diversification, in spite of the fact that the country possesses several other potential and cultivable medium and minor carp species having a high region demand, viz. Labeo calbasu, L.fimbriatns, L. gonius, L. dussumeieri, L. bata, Cirrhinus cirrhosa, C. reba, Puntius sarana, P. jerdoni (Figure 20-27) etc. Presently, efforts are being made for mass-scale seed production of these species and their inclusion as a component of conventional carp polyculture, based on their regional importance.

References available upon request

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The Aquaculturists
This blog is maintained by The Aquaculturists staff and is supported by the
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