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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Crab farming gets a push up

Finally, the crabs are getting the push they deserve. Or, rather, mud-crab farming is. After depending on bamboo and wooden cages for centuries, coastal crab farmers are now being introduced to fibreglass-reinforced plastic technology, which is expected to give a major boost to the Rs 100-crore industry.

Better known as FRPs, the sturdy, sophisticated mud crab cages and pens have been already introduced in Tamil Nadu. The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), an autonomous society under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, which designed the contraptions, is planning to take them to all the 12 states where mud-crab farming is the mainstay for thousands of families.

Describing the entry of FRP in crab farming as “revolutionary”, NIOT group head R Venkatesan said crab farmers usually depended on locally available material like bamboo, nylon and other synthetics to manufacture cages, which called for repeated investment. “With FRP, crab farmers will be able to derive maximum benefits, since the material is sturdy, non-corrosive and can last upto 10 years even in sea water with periodic cleaning,” he said.

“These cages have to be buried upto 60 cm below the sea bed to prevent crab burrowing through the sand and escaping,” Venkatesan explained. “Open FRP cages are also conducive to lobster-fattening.”

A few months ago, he said, NIOT designed and set up seven mud crab pens (cages are smaller than pens), measuring 100 sq m and made of corrugated FRP sheets, in the Pulicat lake near Chennai. Lobster-fattening cages have been deployed at Tharuvaikulam, near Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu.

Besides their longevity, the cages also offer the option of add-ons; that is, they can be expanded, depending on need. A standard cage, suitable for netting 1000 crabs, is 6 metres in length and 4 meters wide. At Rs 100,000 for a standard cage, it’s not exactly cheap, but various state governments are offering 50 per cent subsidies to popularise the improved structure.

The sole manufacturer, the Bhosari-based Suvarna Fibrotech—it donated two FRP houses to tsunami-hit Kerala last year—is also chipping in with concessions. “We have already supplied seven modules of the pen, worth Rs 6 lakh; further production is in process,” said P I Varghese, CMD of the small-scale industrial unit, adding that according to NIOT, this was the first such application of FRP.

Source: Indian Express

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