Seaweed cultivation does not require land, fresh water, fertilizers or pesticides and can be grown in areas of clear sea water and low tidal action.
Seaweeds is a common term for a huge range of marine plants.According to the Ministry of Fisheries, India has around 60 “commercially important” species, but only a few—Kappphycus, Sargasum, Gracilaria and Gelediella—are being exploited, on a small scale.
Importance of seaweeds :
Seaweeds are a source of a variety of extracts that are used in food, pharmaceuticals and plant nutrition industries.
Dr Al Sears, an anti-ageing specialist, says that seaweeds are “packed with two super anti-oxidants" -- Fucoidans, which fight cancer of the white blood cells (lymphoma) and Ecklonia cava, rich in polyphenols.
Research at the Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI), Bhavnagar, have shown that seaweed extracts to be good plant nutrients.
Potential in India:
According to some estimates, the world produces about 33 million tons of seaweed, half of it coming from China and most of the rest from Indonesia and Philippines.
India produces about 20,000 tons. In contrast, the country’s potential has been estimated at a million tons, a fourth of which in Tamil Nadu alone.
And now, the government has allocated ₹637 crore for the cultivation of these nutrition-rich marine plants, as part of the ₹20,050-crore Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana—to be spent over the next five years, mainly as subsidy support.
What to be done??
Dr Yugraj Yadava, Director, Bay of Bengal Program, says that the first step should be a thorough survey of the entire coastline, to find out which species can be grown where, and where natural harvesting is better.
A “knowledge-base” is a necessary condition to ginger up activity, Yadava says. While farming itself is simple—a series of bamboo rafts placed in shallow sea water and harvesting every 45 days—Yadava says it still requires some hand-holding. Seaweed farmers need to be told what best to grow, be given inputs and backward linkage with the markets.
Tamil Nadu and Gujarat have shown keenness but the Secretary at the Ministry of Fisheries(Dr Rajeev Ranjan) hopes that other States will also get into the act.