As many as 4,000 tropical swimming beauties took to air on Sunday from Cochin Airport, heading to Paris. The Moscow blue guppies, moonlight guppies, Dalmatian mollies, red caps, orandas and several varieties of angel fish — worth around Rs 23,000 — are the pilots of an ambitious plan to increase India's share in the $7 billion ornamental fish sector to 10% from the current 0.8%. "This is our entry into the European market. If all goes well, we would be getting steady orders from there," said fisheries minister S Sarma, also the vice-chairman of Kerala Aqua Ventures International Ltd (Kavil). He said the public-private partnership company was set to set up an import hub in New York. Talks were on to set up a similar hub in China.
"The French company has been importing ornamental fish from Indonesia and Singapore. But they were satisfied with the varieties we breed here," said A Gopalakrishnan, director of Kavil, set up last year. He said the company hopes to grab 10% of the global ornamental fish market in seven years.
"We have a role model in Sri Lanka, which has 8% of the global market. Kerala's climate and topography are very similar to Sri Lanka. Tropical fish cannot be bred in the cold climes of Europe. Even in north India, breeding is impossible during the cold months. Kerala has an excellent atmosphere where these fish can be bred throughout the year," he said.
Meanwhile, an aqua technology park, which specialises in tropical fish, will be inaugurated near Aluva on January 18. "We are planning to develop a 128-acre farm. Already 20 acres are being developed. We are also promoting around 10,000 homestead farms, which will get a subsidy of Rs50,000 each," Gopalakrishnan added. Kavil has also arranged to source fish from homestead farms in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
Kavil, in which the Kerala government has a 43% stake, has imported 55 varieties of ornamental fish from South Asian countries. "We breed them, crossbreed them
with our indigenous varieties and market them abroad. Even our local varieties like Miss Kerala are in high demand," he added.
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