Goa: In a first-of-its-kind tie-up in India’s marine sector, COOP Cooperative, one of Switzerland’s biggest retail and wholesale companies, will partner the government of India’s Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) to develop export-oriented organic aqua farming in India to cater to the growing demand for organic seafood products across the EU.
A Memorandum of Cooperation was signed here on Sunday by A. Jayathilak, Chairman, MPEDA, and Gerard Zurlutter, Member of Management, COOP, at the ongoing India International Seafood Show 2018 at Margao.
Under the project, MPEDA will assist in identifying entrepreneurs and providing them with technical advice on the production of high-quality organic shrimp that meet national and international certification protocols.
COOP, which has nearly 2,200 sales outlets throughout Switzerland and wholesale/production business active across Europe, has offered to procure the processed organic shrimp at a premium of up to 15 per cent with an additional five per cent through financing for development activities, including training.
“The reason why many farmers are hesitant to get into organic production is the increased costs involved. The premium price offered will offset the extra cost and incentivise them to explore organic farming. Our cooperation with COOP covers the entire value chain and we hope that farmers and entrepreneurs will come forward and take this opportunity to be linked to consumers abroad,” said Jayathilak.
“There is increased awareness across Europe about organic produce and it constitutes a niche market which the Indian aquaculture industry can take advantage of,” he added.
The pilot project will be run in Kerala to produce Organic Black Tiger Shrimp (Penaeus monodon) initially in about 1000 hectares, and if successful, extended to other locations across India.
MPEDA and COOP will facilitate the certification of a shrimp hatchery for the production of organic shrimp seed and similarly certify and empanel a small-scale feed mill unit to source the organic feed for the project.
Cochin-based companies JASS Ventures and Baby Marine International will collaborate with COOP to organise the supply chain in Kerala and process the produce through organic methods.
Alex Ninan, CEO, Baby Marine International, said that Kerala, with its vast stretches of backwaters and a conducive environment, has enormous potential for organic shrimp farming, which also offers the advantage of putting into commercial use land that might otherwise be unsuitable for farming and agricultural purposes.