Big money in prawns

FISHERFOLK get to see little of the fabulous profits prawns fetch exporters. Between harvesting and exporting, the prawns multiply money 80 times over. Prawn seedlings are sold to middlemen at Rs 20 to Rs 50 a kg in summer -- when the seedlings are abundant -- and Rs 150 to Rs 200 in winter. The middlemen sell them at profits of upto 100 per cent to hatchery agents of large companies. The hatcheries rear the prawns, which in three months weigh about 20 to a kilo. The prawns are then harvested, processed, canned and exported and in the process, the hatchery's profit jumps 80-fold.

The Sundarbans and the backwaters along the Kerala coast produce the bulk of the country's total tiger prawn catch, whose export fetches Rs 140 crore annually in foreign exchange. Tiger prawns account for 70 per cent of the total prawn export from the country and prawns form 85 per cent of India's total export of marine products.

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