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India’s shrimp farms test antibiotic control

In markets from Boston to Beijing, much of the shrimp offered for sale comes from India, which has rapidly grown into one of the world’s largest manufacturers of mollusks.

Worldwide, the shrimp export market was worth nearly $ 25 billion by 2020, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. And analysts, including those of Rabobank, estimate that India has become the world’s largest exporter by value.

Its shrimp exports have tripled in the decade to 2020, worth about $ 5 billion, according to the state Department of Fisheries. It is worth noting that India is ranked as the number one supplier of shrimp to the US, according to the Animal Investment Initiative at the Farm (Fairr) – an investment advisory network focusing on sustainable food production.

But this rapid expansion has also made the country’s shrimp industry a test case if authorities and producers in the fast-growing agricultural sector can control the use of antibiotics.

Experts say that for producers in countries like India, who often lack the infrastructure and resources of farmers in richer countries, the pressure to overuse antibiotics can be strong.

Like farmers in other sectors, many Indian producers use antibiotics to treat and control diseases among their shrimp. However, regulators in Europe and elsewhere fear that this could lead to abuse, such as the use of drugs to help healthy shrimp grow, with significant implications for global health.

Overuse of antibiotics for animal and seafood production exacerbates the rise in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as drugs cease to be effective against infection. A study in the medical journal The Lancet published This year Found that more than 1.2 million people died from bacterial AMR worldwide in 2019. Medical researchers predict the toll will rise.

“The problem will grow as we intensify and try to produce more food,” says Charles Tyler, a professor of environmental biology at the University of Exeter, who has studied the shrimp industry in India. “It’s going to be a huge burden in terms of disease. Whatever people say about AMR, it’s going to get worse because of the way we produce food and its intensification.”

Indian shrimp became globally competitive as farmers increased production, increasingly concentrated shrimp for ponds and settled on high-yielding species like white shrimp.

Jennifer Cole, a lecturer in global and planetary health at Royal Holloway University in London, says the rainy climate and more frequent flooding in places like North East India – a result of climate change – have also pushed farmers to aquaculture.

The intensification of the industry has led to the spread of diseases more easily among shrimp. This can have devastating economic consequences for manufacturers.

Because of the export-oriented nature of the industry, the use of antibiotics in shrimp in India is in fact subject to stricter standards than other forms of animal husbandry, says Amit Horna, director of the Sustainable Food Systems Program at the Institute’s Center for Science and Environment. New Delhi.

Some also argue that measuring the extent of excessive use of antibiotics in the Indian shrimp industry can be difficult. But groups like Fairr warn that there is evidence of widespread use because manufacturers give preventative treatments or to promote growth.

In response, imported countries have become more stringent regarding India as a source of shrimp. The EU has increased the rate of testing for antibiotic residues in Indian shrimp shipments, according to a 2020 study by the industry magazine for industry Reviews in aquaculture. U.S. regulators have even approached them Rejection of some Indian shipments After the discovery of antibiotics, according to the American Shrimp Alliance.

Tyler says some Indian shrimp farmers may use antibiotics during production, but then stop doing so several weeks before exporting their product to avoid detection. The producers claim against them that they are being demonized by foreign inspectors, with too high inspection standards leading False positives.

Indian authorities, however, have been aware of the dangers, health and economic, of antibiotic abuse in aquaculture. The Ministry of Fisheries wrote this year to the governments of countries across India and warned of AMR and the potential harm to exports if the use of antibiotics is not stopped.

Secretary of State Jattindra Nath Swain has warned that authorities must “completely stop using antibiotics and take action against the violators,” according to down to earth News site.

Earlier, in 2017, the Government of India launched a National Action Plan to address the broader issue of AMR by strengthening monitoring and raising awareness of the dangers. It has already banned dozens of antibiotics in aquaculture.

Despite this, Pierre says Indian regulation is weaker than that of other major countries like China and the US. The group claims that when India’s federal system transfers significant powers to states, local initiatives will be more effective. Only three Indian states have their own action plans AMR.

Some analysts argue that in the industry of many small producers with limited resources, farmers should be given financial incentives to change their approach. Antibiotics remain the cheapest, and often the only, option for farmers to prevent crop failure, according to Reviews in aquaculture Study.

“It’s very easy for us to see the need to reduce the use of antibiotics,” said Philippa Thornton, an analyst at Fairr. But then “farmers are being asked – especially in lower-income countries – to implement [alternatives] It is much more difficult, especially in the absence of financial capacity. “

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