Let’s talk shrimp today.
India is the world’s largest shrimp exporter by value, with shrimp exports jumping three-fold in the decade to 2020, to be worth about $5 billion.
But wait, why shrimps today of all the things?
Well, of late, the country’s shrimp industry has become a test case for whether authorities and producers can control the use of antibiotics.
Producers are using drugs and antibiotics to keep their shrimp disease-free.
So, where does the problem lie?
Experts believe that Indian farmers often lack the infrastructure and resources compared to their peers in richer nations.
The pressure of production could lead them to overuse antibiotics, which can be detrimental to global health.
The Pandemic Impact
As the country went into lockdown in March 2020, many farmers harvested their shrimp in panic.
Shrimp processing plants were facing cancellation and postponement of purchase orders and had challenges in receiving the harvested shrimp.
International flights carrying the produce also shut down – making it impossible for the shellfish to move around.
As a result, shrimp prices dashed down.
Months later, as the economy opened up, a lingering effect of a worker shortage is still being felt, which could result in the decline of Indian shrimp production.
Shrimps on Drugs Could Kill
The overuse of antibiotics for seafood production exacerbates the rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
Drugs cease to fight against infection.
As a matter of fact, more than 1.2 million people died from bacterial AMR globally in 2019.
While India as an exporter is actually subject to tighter standards than other forms of animal agriculture, the importers have also become cautious about it.
The EU has increased the testing rate for antibiotic residue in Indian shrimp shipments.
US regulators were found rejecting some Indian shipments after detecting antibiotics.
Producers counter-argue that they are being demonized by foreign inspectors, with excessively high testing standards leading to false positives.
The Authorities’ Take
Having taken note of the dangers, both health and financial, of antibiotic misuse in aquaculture, the authorities wrote to the state governments warning about AMR and the potential harm to exports.
But then, what are the alternatives?
Asking farmers to implement alternatives is much more difficult, especially in the absence of financial capacity.
Too long? Here’s a one-liner: Indian shrimp industry is becoming a test case for the use and abuse of drugs; importers worry about drug overuse in shrimp production that could impact global health.