Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Government of India organized a national webinar on ‘Dry Fish Technologies and Consumer Market’ on 20th February 2023 as a part of ongoing celebration of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. The event was presided over by Shri Jatindra Nath Swain, Secretary, Department of Fisheries (DoF), Government of India (GOI) and was well-attended by entrepreneurs, fisheries associations, officials of Department of Fisheries, GoI and fisheries officials of different States/UTs, faculties from state agriculture, veterinary and fisheries universities, fisheries research institutes, fisheries cooperative officers, scientists, students and stakeholders from fisheries across the country. The series of webinars conducted have served as a great platform for various stakeholders to come together to share their experiences and knowledge share to bring in multi-faceted perspectives from all fields (research, industry, experts, beneficiaries etc.) for greater impact. Panelists were invited to speak on prevalent technologies and consumer trends for dry fish market segment. While discussing the current market scenario and technologies involved, the panelists also highlighted on-ground challenges.
The webinar started with the key note address by Shri Jatindra Nath Swain, Secretary, DoF (GOI). He highlighted that as excess milk gave rise to milk products such as milk powder, in a similar way excess fish production is expected to boost lesser-known market segment of dry fish. Dry fish is a good option for selling fish in places where fish is inaccessible or lacks variety. He added that dry fish market segment is largely undermined due to perception and stigma of ‘low value and low quality’ and lacks market linkage for a readymade export market. The webinar thus aimed at understanding the importance of dry fish as a commodity, technologies available for drying and processing while also deliberate on ways to make dry fish an acceptable commercially viable commodity.
The technical session started with the presentation by Dr. Murali, Scientist, Engineering Division, CIFT on the topic ‘CIFT Driers and Success Stories’. He explained about the traditional fish drying methods, prevalent issues and technological solutions and innovations designed and sold by CIFT. Information was also shared on different types of dryers such as solar, infrared, electrical and biomass dryer, results from various experiments, costs, profitability, and empanelled manufacturers. Highlights from various training programs, success stories of dry fish stores and entrepreneurs using CIFT dryers were also shared during the session.
Dr. C.O Mohan, Senior Scientist, Food Processing Division, CIFT presented on the topic ‘Entrepreneurial opportunities in dried fishery products’. He explained about the nutritional value available in fish as compared to other sources of protein and variety of fish species like shrimp, Anchovy, Sardines, Croakers, Mackerel, Bombay duck etc popularly available in the dry fish markets for local consumption. As India exports to countries namely Singapore, Sri Lanka, ASEAN and to Middle East, he explained about different packaging material. Information on CIFT incubation facility, training and outreach programs supporting entrepreneurs were presented during the session. The experts from CIFT collectively suggested that the main issue lies with management and regulation of fish drying (drying methods, processing standards and methods etc) market hence these are sectoral priorities to ensure exports and consumption of ‘safe fish’.
Expert speaker, industrialist, Mr Joseph Cascarino, Proprietor, Ichthys Marine Foods, Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu presented about the dry fish business and the consumer market. As a second-generation entrepreneur engaged in procuring, processing and exporting dry fish for last 35 years, he presented about the drying technologies, storages and types of packaging. He further highlighted different specifications used in packaging dry fish based on consumer preferences and country specifications for value added products that are exported. He recommended that steps should be taken to modernize processing methods, technological & scientific support required for value added products and increasing awareness amongst the masses.
Director, NIFPHATT, Dr Shine Kumar C. S., informed about the specific fish species dried for exports and the importing countries. He highlighted that India is ranked low in dry fish export market however has tremendous opportunity to grow due to huge demand in the global market. He recommended that awareness should be created to replace incorrect and unhygienic practices such as drying in unhygienic and open areas with good working standards and hygienic practices.
With the aforesaid insightful discussions, follow-up action points have been derived to further develop sectoral strategies and action plans. The webinar concluded with a vote of thanks proposed by Dr. S. K. Dwivedi, Assistant Commissioner (Fy), DoF to the chair, delegates, guest speakers and participants.