It was in July last year that the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) revealed that it was going to focus on enhancing the export of mangrove crabs from India. Mangrove crabs are in demand in the global market and are procured at a premium rate, particularly in Southeast Asia. So the MPEDA encouraged local coastal fishermen to start farming crabs in Sindhudurg district’s mangroves in Maharashtra.
The project which was spearheaded by the forest department and funded by the UNDP had 3 key objectives – to offer fishermen a sustainable livelihood (assured income), preserve the mangroves and boost the supply of crab export from India. 15 locations were identified as the hubs of the project in Maharashtra. Clearly, the project proved extremely successful as today media reports revealed that the government was keen on replicating the mangrove crab breeding pilot scheme of the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra in other Indian states. In states such as Andhra Pradesh and Kerala mud crabs are currently reared in farms or ponds.
“Based on the success of the Sindhudurg project, we have proposed to Green Climate Fund (GCF) to extend mangrove crab breeding to all districts of Maharashtra and to Andhra Pradesh and Odisha,” said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests and head of the mangrove cell, Maharashtra.
Crab exports from India are currently valued at Rs 300 crore. The live crabs are transported by air from Chennai and Mumbai mostly to Southeast Asia. India’s crab exports, however, have not shown any signs of growth due to the limited supply of crabs.
GCF is a fund that is offered by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to help developing countries in rolling out initiatives to tackle climate change. “Mangroves, more than rainforests, help to counter climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide,” N Vasudevan said. Clearly, the project has worked in helping protect the mangroves. The Maharashtra government recently stated that mangroves in the state will now be treated akin to reserved forests.
News that the mangrove rearing model is going to be replicated in other states is a big reason to cheer for exporters. Numerous exporters revealed that while there is a huge demand for live crabs globally, limited domestic availability led to a severe shortage.
“Even when we export 80 kg, we have to pay the flight charges of 100 kg. At a time when the government has slashed export incentive, it is difficult to continue exports in the current circumstances,”‘ said Titus Yesudas, owner of Jolly Marine Exports.
Will this model prove successful in saving mangroves, providing fishermen with sustainable income and ensuring exporters an adequate supply of live crabs for export? Let us know.