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There's something fishy in the farms of Punjab. Funnily enough, it smells good. It's pisciculture and it's fast catching up as a big alternative source of livelihood among the state's farmers.
The steep rise in the demand for fish due to the change in dietary habits and the large influx of migrant population has had the state's farmers taking to fish farming. This has also resulted in a shift from the two-crop pattern comprising wheat and paddy which is largely taken up in this agrarian state.
In a much needed impetus to pisciculture, the state Fisheries Department is providing at least 6 million fish seeds to farmers every year, including seeds of Grass Carp, Silver Carp, Big Head Carp and Gulfam, to promote crop diversification. The Ludhiana-based Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) is also providing special training through training programmes to small and marginal farmers.
According to the Fisheries Department, currently nearly 9,890 hectare area is under fish culture, with an average productivity of 6.09 tonnes per hectare. The area is 10 per cent more than last year and expected to yield in a high production next year, said B.B. Sharma, Assistant Director, Punjab Fisheries Department.
In fact, the state's productivity is higher compared to the national figure of 2.6 tonnes per hectare. Despite this, say experts, there is an immense scope to boost fish production by introducing appropriate technologies and practices with special programmes and support base for farmers.
"Most farmers are taking up pisiculture along with traditional farming, owing to the high returns and low input costs in fish farming," said Sukhdeep Singh Bajwa, a fish farmer at Quadian in Gurdaspur, who said farm fish is more in demand because the pollution in rivers has led to a decline in their numbers. So recently he has added two more hectares to his eight-hectare fish farm.
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