Bombay Duck, a small pelagic fish landed in bulk along Saurashtra coast of Gujarat is abundant along North West and North East coast of Indiaalsowith the North West coast accounting for 88% of the landings. The fishery serves as livelihood for millions of fishermen along the coast and the average annual landings in India is around 1.15 lakh tonnes. The major landing centres for Bombay Duck are Umargam, Jaffarabad, Rajpara, Navabandar located in Gujarat state and Diu. Due to high moisture content, the only processing method adopted for Bombay Duck is drying which is done traditionally in stakes connected by ropes by scaffolding. Ninety percent of the Bombay Duck processed from Saurashtra as dry fish is distributed through Mumbai to dry fish markets located as far as Goa, Tamil Nadu and theNorth East.
Less than 8% (around 400 to 600 tonnes) of the dry Bombay Duck processed in drying yards in the coastal fishing villages get exported to countries like Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Bangladesh, UAE and Seychelles.Dry Bombay duck is highly appreciated in UK and was exported in bulk prior to 1997 when a ban on Bombay Duck exports to EU was imposed pointing out the quality problems. The traditional drying done on ropes takes three days for drying, enabling flies to lay eggs on the open sundried products. Later the product packed unhygienically gets procured by dry fish merchants at the production site. Absence of proper marketing strategies to channelize dry Bombay Duck to upcoming markets catering to quality conscious consumers who are willing to pay premium price is noteworthy.
Under the National Agricultural Innovation Project, ‘Responsible harvesting and utilization of selected small pelagics and freshwater fishes(NAIP-RHSSP)’, extensive studies on dry Bombay Duck production and marketing conducted in and around Jaffarabad, Gujarat showed overall poor quality of products traditionally processed under highly unhygienic conditions. Upon laboratory testing, the productswere seen to be prone to fungal and pest infestation with dust particles accumulated during the drying process. Creek water used for cleaning the fish before drying added to the bacterial load on the product.
Two seasons for Bombay Duck landings termed as static phase (September to January) and dynamic phase (February to May) dictate the pricing of the dry Bombay Duck product at the producer level which is variable and the average price per kilogram is Rs.80/-. Due to bulk landings, high moisture content and the price sensitivity, energy intensive mechanical methods involving investment and modern infrastructure may not be economical for adoption by the fishermen. Also the producers were not aware of the quality problems associated with the product processed in their traditional drying yards, the market value of quality products and the upcoming markets can be cornered by hygienically produced dry Bombay Duck. Therefore attempts were made under the project to implement a user friendly, cost effective set-up which will avert the quality problems and evolve dust free products which are devoid of pest infestation. Jaffarabad, a major landing centre for Bombay Duck production and processing was selected for the experimental trials.
Ahygienic bulk drying system was designed and developed using fly proof nets, PVC pipes and indigenous water filtering system and its use demonstrated to the stakeholders. The samples of the end product evolved through the system was shown to local dry fish agents who were appreciative of the appearance of the product with the shape difference evolved by use of the hygienic bulk drying system. A protocol for handling, drying, storing and packing was standardized under the project. Appropriate packing and branding were also brought about. Also, cost effective production of improved Laminated Bombay Duck was attemped using power operated laminating machine developed under the project with encouraging results.
Market survey for the superior grade Bombay Duck evolved out of the hygienic bulk drying system perceived good demand and market potential for hygienic, quality enhanced dry Bombay Duck in Mumbai and NEH markets. Trial marketing of the superior grade dry Bombay Duck, produced using the hygienic bulk drying system, was done at selected super markets in Mumbai showed acceptance for the product with response obtained both from premium consumers and dry fish merchants. A leading dry fish exporter based at Valsad, Gujarat has adopted the hygienic bulk drying system model for processing Bombay Duck and is successfully marketing improved product under the brand name ‘FISHSTIX’ registered under the project.
A commercially viable design of the hygienic bulk drying system improvised upon the model designed and experimented at Jaffarabad was developed by Shri M. Nasser, Co-PI of the project along with appropriate marketing strategy. For popularizing the business model for dried Bombay Duck for domestic as well as export markets,the project has associated with NETFISH and a commercial level drying facility was set up in Umbergaon, South Gujarat with funding from NETFISH during January, 2014. This facility which has a capacity of 2.5 tonnes and consists of 24mx9m drying chamber, a 12mx3m solar dryer and laminating machine.
The inauguration of the training programme on ‘Hygienic bulk drying of Bombay Duck’ was conducted at Umbergaon Fishermen’s SarvodyaSahakari Society on 24 March, 2014. Around 70 fish processors participated in the Workshop-cum-training programme. The programme started with a welcome by Kum.Sindhu, a social activist at Umargam who briefed the stakeholders about the project.ShriJituBhaiTandle, President of the Umbergaon Fishermen’s SarvodyaSahakari Society explained to the stakeholders the importance of the project and appreciated the efforts put up by the project team at Umargam.Dr. K.V. Lalitha, CPI, NAIP-RHSSP who gave the presidential address, urged the participants the need to bring out quality improvement in Bombay Duck. She requested the participants to derive maximum benefit from the interventions done by the project team. ShriJigneshVisavadia, State Coordinator, NETFISH, Gujarat explained to the participants the merits of the hygienic bulk drying system set up at Umargam. Dr V. Geethalakshmi, Principal Scientist & Co-PI of the project stressed that quality improvement in dry Bombay Duck will certainly result in enhanced price for the product and open up premium market for Bombay Duck products. A formal Vote of Thanks was proposed by ShriApurvaVasava, Secretary of the Umargam Society.
Dr. Martin Xavier, Scientist, Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai imparted the training on processing, drying and packing of Bombay Duck using the model drying facility. The laminating machine developed under NAIP-RHSSP project which has been installed at Umargam was also demonstrated during the 3-day programme.