Covid-19 shutdown: chartered flights bringing fish seeds from West Bengal to Kerala

KOCHI: With Covid-19 landing all passenger flights, they are grouping together to send fish seeds to farmers, to meet the high demand from fish-loving Malayalis. Last Tuesday, the first cargo plane arrived Kochi with almost 9.5 tons of cargo and two more flights are expected this week.

The first flight came on May 12th carrying 14 shipments meant for 11 buyers in Kerala, confirmed Paul Kocheril, general manager, Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL). Various cargo agents approached us in Kolkata for shipping fish seeds to Kochi, and hence we operated a non-scheduled flight using a Boeing 737 700 aircraft on Tuesday, said Christy Joseph, Cargo Manager-Kerala,. There were 2,500 boxes of ‘oxygen packed’ fish seed, which is estimated to be 3 million in number.

When contacted, Uday Mandal, proprietor of Calcutta Cargo, one of the three agents who booked the Kochi flight last week, said that they are planning to send cargo planes to Kerala on 20th and 23rd of May again.

“For the last fifteen years, we had been shipping fish seed regularly to Kerala on passenger plans [in the cargo hold], but with Covid-19, we had to book entire cargo plans,” Mandal said. Between him and two other agents, they foot the bill of Rs 19 lakh for the flight. And it is not Kochi alone, the Bengali fish farmers are supplying seed to. Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Imphal, Guwahati and Agartala are the other destinations fish from Bengal.

The main variety transported to Kerala is tilapia, said Arpan Mandal, owner of Arpan Fish Feed Supplies, which operates from Naihati, a municipal city located 40 km from Calcutta. “Sometimes all the hundred boxes I send to Kerala will be Monkey Tilapia (MST). Regardless, Tilapia will always be 70% or more of our total shipment, ”he added.

In fact, Bengal ships almost 6 million Tilapia seeds annually to Kerala as cargo in the womb of regular passenger flights. According to industry estimates, Kerala is in high demand for tilapia seeds, which now have 12 million seeds per year and are expected to touch 24 million seeds in the next three years. The other varieties of fish shipped to Kerala are Red Belly, Pangasius, and Anabas.