COVID-19 lockdown hits crab farming in coastal Odisha

Prices have crashed and farmers cannot find exporters to sell their produce to

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Wednesday 22 April 2020
A crab farmer showing crabs in Kharinashi village in Kendrapada district. Photo: Ashis Senapati
A crab farmer showing crabs in Kharinashi village in Kendrapada district. Photo: Ashis Senapati A crab farmer showing crabs in Kharinashi village in Kendrapada district. Photo: Ashis Senapati

Crab farming in coastal Odisha has been severely hit due to the ongoing lockdown in the wake of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Farming crabs is the economic mainstay of 25,000 seaside villagers in the state’s coastal pockets. But it has been hit severely due to the lockdown.

Crab traders, exporters and farmers have been left in the lurch due to markets remaining shut in the past 26 days.

“We are struggling to take crabs to the market due to the lockdown,” Nabajyoti Haldar, a crab farmer from the seaside village of Kharinashi in Kendrapara district, said.

The more lasting impact of the lockdown will be noticed in the coming days as crab exporters are no longer interested in purchasing crabs from farmers, Harihar Mandal, a crab farmer of Dahibara village in Jagatsinghpur district, said.

“Usually, by this time, exporters start purchasing crabs from us. However, due to the lockdown, finding an exporter as well as transporting crabs has become a major issue,” he said.

“Crab traders purchase crabs from us which they then supply to crab exporters in Kolkata and Visakhapatnam. But now, the exporters are not interested to purchase live crabs as their export to China, Singapore, Japan and other countries has been totally suspended due to COVID-19. Exports were also stopped as the government shut all airports in India,” Mandal said

As demand crashed, the price of crabs in the domestic market has fallen. “We used to sell quality live crabs at Rs 500-800 per kg, which is now around Rs 200-300,” Narayan Pradhan, a crab farmer of Batighar village in Kendrapara district, said.

The mud crab farming project in the coastal pockets of the state is now in deep trouble due to the lockdown.

Mud crabs can easily grow in less water and relatively saline areas.

“We purchase mud crab seeds from the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture at Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu. The fisheries officials also provide training to us about the farming of mud crabs.  As the crab is grown in a natural environment, there is no capital cost involved,” Bijaya Mandal, a crab farmer of Dahibar village in Jagatsinghpur district, said.

Many estuaries, ponds and other water bodies in the coastal areas are suited for mud crab farming and there is a great demand for crabs in the domestic and international market.

“Around 23 seafood exporters of Odisha exported seafood worth Rs 3,000 crore last year. But the lockdown and COVID-19 have dashed their hopes this year,” Umesh Mohapatra, the deputy director of Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), Bhubaneswar, said.

“We hope after the end of the lockdown period, crab farmers and seafood exporters will export crabs, shrimps and other seafood to international markets,” Mohapatra added.

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