Shoring up

Published: Tuesday 15 April 2003

following the detection of antibiotic residues in shrimps exported from India in 2002, the government seems to be making a concerted effort to rectify the situation. The Marine Products Export Development Authority (mpeda), a body that comes under the Union ministry of commerce, has recently taken several initiatives to protect the Rs 6,000-crore Indian seafood exports industry. One such measure is the investment of Rs 17.5 crore by mpeda to upgrade Indian laboratories so that they conform to European standards. It is in these labs that checks are conducted for detecting antibiotic residues.

Since September 2002, when the European Commission (ec) placed Indian shrimp imports on the watch-list, the Indian seafood sector has been under immense pressure (see: 'Suspect shrimps', September 30, 2002).

"We have purchased equipment similar to that used in Europe to test antibiotic residues in shrimps," reveals Vijaykumar C Yaragal, additional director, trade promotion office, mpeda. Nine such machines worth Rs 1.5 crore are expected to be installed all over India by May 2003. The labs will be equipped with high-performance liquid chromatograph-mass spectrometer machines, which can detect antibiotic residues as low as 0.3 parts per billion.

mpeda has also organised programmes to sensitise shrimp farmers about the indiscriminate use of antibiotics. The authority plans to set up a centre in Andaman and Nicobar Islands to cultivate pathogen-free shrimp brooders or mother shrimps. "Through this project, mpeda aims to breed shrimp larvae in a disease-free environment. The eggs would be hatched up to first larval stage and would then be cultivated in hatcheries for another 20 days. Finally, the larvae would be sold to the farmers," says Yaragal.

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