Value addition to fish in the context of NE India
- Part 3 -

Ranendra K Majumdar *

 Annual Fish Fair / Fish Crop Competition at Hapta Kangjeibung :: 26th October 2022
Annual Fish Fair / Fish Crop Competition at Hapta Kangjeibung on 26th October 2022 :: Pix - Shanker Khangembam

Traditional hentak technology

Hentak is traditional fish product made in Manipur. This is a fermented paste like product made from small fishes like 'mola' (Esomusdanricus). The dried fish are crushed to powder and mixed with partially dried petioles of Alocasiamicrorhiza and crushed further to make a paste.

The paste in the form of small balls are stored in earthen pots for fermentation for about two weeks. These balls are stored as reserve food in a dry and cool place and made to paste with little water before use.

Preservation of fish by smoking

Smoked fish are highly preferred in States like Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland. The rural people usually smoke fish in their house itself. Smoke curing of fish and meat products for long-term storage is an age-old technology as a means of preservation at a very low investment. In the smoking process, drying is of paramount importance for preservation, because it is moisture in the flesh that permits bacterial activity and spoilage.

Salt accelerates the removal of water and hence its widespread use as a traditional preservative. Further, the application of extracts from the smoke (phenols, etc.) retards the development of spoilage bacteria. Packed as dried smoked products, these can travel great distances and remain edible for long periods of time. In traditional practice fish are kept in bamboo mat hanging over the furnace. The heat and smoke over the furnace allow the fish to dry and get an added flavour of smoke from burning of wood. There is scope for establishment of fish smoking unit in the NE region to produce smoked fish in hygienic way.

The technology of smoking fish is simple. Fish for smoking must be fresh and certainly post-rigor. After preparation which may include filleting, or nobbing, splitting or chunking, the fish is either brined or packed in fine dry salt (brining being more common nowadays). Once salted, the fish are placed in the kiln for a period of time and allowed to drip. This allows excess liquid to drain off and in certain products, allows the formation of an attractive gloss.

Cold smoking is mostly preferred where temperature is not allowed to increase more than 340C in any point of time than that of hot smoking here temperature exceeds 600C. Smoked fish should be kept at temperatures under 20C and used within 14 days. If smoked fish is to be kept longer than 14 days, it should be frozen immediately after smoking.

All the above-mentioned value-added fish products are very much traditional to the NE and these are low cost technology of fish preservation and no sophisticated equipment are needed as in the case of freezing and canning. Fermented fish can be stored for long time at ambient temperature and this is required for the tribal population of this region who usually follow nomadic style of life.

Based on the demand of fermented and smoked fish in the NE, following suggestions can be made for commercialization and adoption of these technologies by the unemployed groups which not only improve the socio-economic conditions of them but will also open an avenue for employment generation.

1. Along with the major carp culture of fish like Puntius spp., mola, murrels, fatty fish like Pangasius sp. Should be encouraged to meet the demand of raw materials for production of well demanded fermented and smoked fish.

2. Scientific intervention is required to evaluate and standardize the existing traditional technology, pot fermentation storage, etc.

3. Training to the fish farmers for entrepreneurship development based on these technologies

4. Provision of financial grant for encouragement of adoption of the technologies.

The culture of NE is very old and primitive, so, there is every possibility of many more such type of value-added fish products restricted to particular locality/community and not widely popular as few which are discussed here. Therefore, a proper survey is required for all those indigenous technologies of fish preservation for their scientific study to evaluate the technology for further improvement and standardization.

Other value-added fish products

Value addition means any additional activity such as addition of ingredients or processes (icing, freezing, drying, smoking etc.) that make them more attractive to the buyer and finally change the nature of a product thus adding to its value at the time of sale. Value can be added to fish and fishery products ranging from live fish and shell fish to ready to serve convenience products according to the requirement of different markets. Besides, value addition also makes the fish more convenient and ready to use, with enhanced appeal and attraction.

Usually, the fishes which are less preferred and fetch comparatively low price in fresh condition in spite of huge production, viz. silver carp, grass carp, big head carp, pangas etc. are preferentially utilized for preparation of value-added fish products.

The people have become more selective in their food choices and such preferences are the result of changes in work cultures and life styles, availability of disposable income and lack of leisure for house hold work. In the Northeast sector of India more than 98% of population is fish eater. Fish in any form of either fresh or processed is a common menu of diet irrespective of economic condition.

Moreover, consumers are ready to pay little excess for the 'convenience foods. Recently, food processing after value addition is becoming the focusing point of the government of India. The following products have gained popularity in the markets:

o Fish steak
o Fish fillet
o Fish fry
o Fish butter fry
o Fish pickle
o Prawn pickle
o Fish finger
o Fish cutlet
o Fish sandwich
o Fish ball
o Fish papad
o Fish noodles
o Fish roll
o Fish samosa
o Fish pakora
o Fish wafer
o Fish nuggets
o Fish soup powder

Preparation and marketing of value-added fish products can play a significant role for income generation of unemployed youth. Small or medium type commercial enterprises can be established based on the technology of value-added fish products and these would create the scope of employment generation in both rural and urban sector.

Unemployed rural women can improve their socio-economic condition by involving themselves in the production and marketing of value-added fish products. At present there are number of government financing agencies (DRDA, FFDA etc.) besides nationalized banks those who are ready to finance such commercial ventures. There are number of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in the State, some of them may be encouraged for production and marketing the value-added fish products.

Marketing of value-added fish products

The main objective of product development is to generate top quality products that perform well in the market meeting the consumer needs and bring profits for the company. An understanding of market forces and elements of the marketing programme is a perquisite for a company venturing into new products. For entry of a new product in the market, i.e. the 'Fist to Market' strategy is based on strong research and development and requires greater resources, long term planning, technical leadership ad willingness of the company to take risk.

The pattern of marketing of value-added fish products is completely different from the traditional fish trade. In case of value-added fish products, marketing is dynamic, sensitive, complex and expensive. Few important factors responsible for successful launching of any product include surveys, consumers' acceptability study, packaging, display, advertisement etc. Most of the market channels prevalent in our country are not adequate to trade value added products.

An improved super market chain is required for this purpose. Moreover, advantages of modern packaging technologies must also be adopted to enhance the attraction of the products to the consumer.

For further details contact: -
Public Relations& Media Management Cell,
CAU, Imphal.


* Ranendra K Majumdar wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is from Department of Fish Processing Technology,
College of Fisheries,
Central Agricultural University,
Lembucherra-799210, Tripura
This article was webcasted on 03 May 2023.

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