The cultivation of trout fish has become a lucrative endeavor for many fish farmers in Sumlar village of North Kashmir's Bandipora district due to the favorable climatic conditions and consistent water supplies in the village.
Abdul Basit, a 22-year-old Journalism student, has engaged in trout farming since 2018. Managing four grow-out tanks and a hatchery, he annually produces approximately 6,000 fingerlings, resulting in an income of Rs 9 Lakh.
Trout farming has significantly transformed the fortunes of the village, leading to substantial and healthier profits. The profitability of this venture can be attributed to the favorable climatic conditions in the village and the constant availability of water around the clock.
Situated 13 kilometers from the District Headquarters, Sumlar is a scenic village enveloped by a lush canopy of hills and a flowing stream that originates from the foothills of the Harmukh mountain. Functioning as a central hub for rainbow trout farming in Bandipora, the village is home to 28 farmers, collectively yielding approximately 7 tonnes of trout fish and 21,000 fingerlings on an annual basis.
The farmers initiated their foray into trout farming after a visit from senior officials of the state fisheries department in 2014, who recognized the village's potential. Furthermore, the village already hosts a hatchery established by the Fisheries Department.
Nayeem Hussain Bhat, a fish farmer, informed Rising Kashmir that initially, he and a neighboring farmer took the initiative to enter into trout farming, despite reservations from others about its potential success.
"The Fisheries Department provided us with Rs 2.5 lakh for constructing a tank and 6,000 fingerlings. We also received training from fisheries department officials as we had no prior knowledge of fish farming", Nayeem said.
The constant water supply and ideal climatic conditions are credited by the fish farmers for turning the village into the central hub of trout farming.
"Engaging in trout farming is a lucrative venture, yet our heavy reliance on natural water is crucial. Even a minor interruption can be detrimental and can potentially result in severe mortalities. Our primary concern revolves around water rather than diseases", said another farmer.
As per the senior fisheries official in the district, Sumlar village boasts 22 trout raceways, generating an annual production of 7 tonnes in the year 2022-23, a substantial increase from the 2 tonnes recorded in 2015-16.
Inam ul Haq, a resource person of Fisheries Department Bandipora said that the Bandipora district comprises 72 trout hatcheries, of which three are government-owned, and the remainder are privately owned by farmers. The total fingerling production in the district reached 25,500 in the year 2022-23, surpassing the 9,000 produced in the year 2019-20.
The official said they have around 136 fish farmers, of whom 69 are involved in trout farming in the District.
Inam said that trout was introduced in the district in 2012. Initially, the stock was raised in government-owned farms for breeding and seed production. However, starting in 2014, with financial support provided to farmers by the department, the cultivation of trout commenced in the private sector.
Inam stated that the government opted to cultivate rainbow trout due to its high market value, offering farmers the opportunity for substantial profits. The climatic conditions and water quality parameters in Bandipora, particularly Sumlar village, are highly conducive for the thriving of this fish species. The government extends both technical and financial assistance to farmers, including a 40 percent subsidy, he added.
Inam said out of Rs 5.5 lakh which is the cost of the trout unit, the Fisheries Department contributes Rs 2.2 lakh, covering construction costs of Rs 1.2 lakh and an input cost of Rs 1 lakh for feed, seed, and equipment.
He further said that the government has also initiated the Holistic Agriculture Development Programme (HADP), sanctioning 15 units (14 trout and 1 carp unit) in Bandipora recently.
The department has also introduced innovative Recirculatory Aquaculture System (RAS) units, with a 50 percent subsidy provided by the department for this intensive high-density fish culture.
Regarding the availability of feed, Inam said that the government has set up fish feed mills in Bandipora to produce feed. The production is carried out on a daily basis, ensuring an uninterrupted and ample supply of feed to farmers.
The farmers in Sumlar affirmed that trout fish farming has presented them with a new opportunity to generate income. Their production and income are on a yearly incline, attributed to the proactive efforts of the Fisheries Department and the escalating demand for trout in the market.