The cost of damage to India's east coast shrimp farming industry is expected to surpass INR 10 billion (€115.5 million/$137.9 million) in the state of West Bengal alone, after a powerful cyclone hit last week, flooding ponds and destroying crops.
Thousands of hectares of shrimp ponds in Odisha and West Bengal were devastated by cyclone Yaas, which swept in from the Bay of Bengal on Wednesday, according to several shrimp farming experts on the ground in India.
Cyclone Yaas was packing gusts of up to 140 kilometers per hour (87 mph), the equivalent of a Category 1 Atlantic hurricane, as it made landfall, reportsCNN.
Estimates of between 2,000 and 5,000 hectares of shrimp farm destruction were being made in various LinkedIn posts from industry experts, who described the event as "a major blow" for Indian shrimp farmers in the region who are currently carrying out summer crop stocking.
West Bengal alone accounts for 15-20 percent of India's aquaculture exports, according to The Times of India.
Embankments in East Midnapur, in the south of the state, were breached in over 130 places, Seafood Exporters Association of India President Rajarshi Banerji told the newspaper.
"Seeding was complete up to 80-90 percent," he said. Most of the shrimp crop had grown and was ready for harvest; 25-30 percent of that matured crop has been lost," he said, adding that the value of this crop loss in Midnapur alone is reliably estimated at around INR10 billion .
"This does not include damage to farms, embankment, infrastructure, tools," he said.
A rescue package is now necessary, according to Banerji, who says damaged farms will not be able to be used for shrimp culture for the rest of the year. "West Bengal was expecting its highest all-time prawn crop of 1 lakh tonne (100,000 metric tons) this year. That prospect is damaged severely."
Anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 hectares was ravaged, and farmers were still early in their crop so there is now a good shortage of small-mid sizes mostly, Willem van der Pijl, owner of consultancy firm Shrimp Insights, told IntraFish.
However, with the cyclone mainly wiping out the smaller sized shrimp biomass, prices are soaring, one of Van der Pijl’s contacts in Odisha told him.
The market price has gone up because there is no small size [shrimp] available, he said. For example small sizes such as 41/50 prices are “soaring” to roughly $6.70.
“This year will be a record breaker for the shrimp price,” the source said.
Although a painful loss for those who lost their crop, it might be a very good year for the farmers who still have the shrimp in their ponds and can sell it at record prices over the next weeks and months, added Van der Pijl.
“This is certainly the case having in mind the surge in demand from basically every market,” he said. “Indian processors and exporters will pay a high price for keeping the share in export markets with the domestic supply shortage.”
Raj Somasundaram, CEO and cofounder of Hatch-backed tech startup Aquaconnect, cited "huge losses," while colleague and regional manager Abhishek Dwivedy described 4-5 meter high tidal waters worst affecting Bhadrak, Balasore and Kendrapara, last week.
His estimates of impacted area was 2,200 hectares, but Manoj Sharma, president of Gujarat Aquaculture Feed Dealers Association and vice president of Gujarat Aquaculture Association, drove his estimates higher, to 5,000 hectares across the two states.
At least three people died and tens of thousands were made homeless when the cyclone hit, inundating hundreds of low-lying villages, officials said.
In West Bengal, an eastern state that borders Bangladesh, authorities said around 1,100 villages had been flooded by storm surges, leaving at least 50,000 homeless. "But the figure may rise as reports are yet to reach us from interior areas," state minister Bankim Hazra told Reuters.
In neighboring Odisha, around 120 villages had been swamped by heavy rain and sea water whipped up by the cyclone, but people in most areas had already been moved to storm shelters, the state's top bureaucrat, Suresh Mahapatra, told Reuters.
President of the Odisha Marine Fish Producers’ Association Sumant Biswal said the shrimp farmers of Balasore, Bhadrak, Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur have incurred massive losses, according to The New Indian Express.
While the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh is the largest shrimp producing region in India, Odisha and West Bengal have seen substantial growth in recent years.
It's the second year in a row that India's summer shrimp stocking has been hindered, with a survey conducted among hundreds of India's shrimp farmers last year revealing major challenges throughout the industry.
Last year, a slowdown in global shrimp exports and a nationwide Indian lockdown that shuttered many of the country's processors resulted in a glut of shrimp with no one to process it.
What followed, as lockdowns began to relax, was processors still operating at reduced capacity, resulting in poor market absorption and low prices, Aquaconnect's Somasundaram told IntraFish at the time.
Fish farmers have also suffered huge losses in areas where aquaculture previously lifted people out of poverty, prompting calls for interest-free or low interest loans to help farmers recover.
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