Switzerland's COOP pursues organic shrimp farming project in India

Published on
January 30, 2018

To give a push towards sustainable and organic shrimp farming in India, the country’s Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) has partnered with COOP Cooperative, one of Switzerland's biggest retail and wholesale companies, to develop export-oriented organic aqua-farming in India.

MPEDA and COOP inked a memorandum of understanding on 28 January, at the 2018 India International Seafood Show in Goa. MPEDA Chairman A Jayathilak and COOP member of management Gerhard Zurlutter, signed the agreement, AgriTimes.co.in reported. The MoU signed between MPEDA and COOP will help India cater to the growing demand for organic seafood products across the European Union, the companies told the news outlet.

“There is increased awareness across Europe about organic produce and it constitutes a niche market which the Indian aquaculture industry can take advantage of,” Jayathilak said.

The project will see MPEDA assist in identifying entrepreneurs and providing them with technical advice on the production of high-quality organic shrimp that meet national and international certification protocols. The project’s pilot will take place in Kerala, with an initial area of around 1,000 hectares dedicated to producing organic black tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon). If successful, the project will be extended to other locations across India, the officials said.

“The reason why many farmers are hesitant to get into organic production is the increased costs involved. The premium price offered will offset the extra cost and incentivize them to explore organic farming,” Jayathilak said. “Our cooperation with COOP covers the entire value chain and we hope that farmers and entrepreneurs would come forward and take this opportunity to be linked to consumers abroad.”

COOP has nearly 2,200 sales outlets throughout Switzerland and its wholesale and production business is active across Europe. It has offered to procure the processed organic shrimp at a premium of up to 15 percent, with an additional five percent through financing for development activities, including training.  

Zurlutter, COOP’s head of projects and overseas buying frozen products, said that a similar project launched by the company  in Vietnam had already proved successful, with organic producers there generating considerably higher revenues than conventional farmers. 

““For us organic is not just an investment, it is the future. We are retailers with a deep-seated commitment to sustainability, and we understand that we have to get farmers into a position where they can readily adopt organic farming practices, so we support them with higher prices,” Zurlutter said. “We also know, from our experience in Vietnam, that although the yields from organic production are relatively low, it is an incredibly simple system, has lower risks than intensive farming and is sustainable over the longer term. It is the balance between nature and commerce that appeals to the European consumer.”

Apart from training, the project will also facilitate the certification of a shrimp hatchery for the production of organic shrimp seed and a small scale feed mill unit to source the organic feed for the project.

Reporting from Mumbai, India

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