Tilapia can help fetch valuable forex
November 30, 2012
In a bid to offset the import of freshwater fish, the country finally found a solution to harvest specie called Tilapia in its ponds to feed the local people and fetch a handful amount of foreign exchange, fisheries sector said on Thursday.
“Tilapia is the fish specie which has given a positive response to its maiden harvesting in Sindh and Punjab with around 200,000 kilograms,” the fisheries officials said, adding that the local farming sector is expecting its two million kilograms of production by next year.
Pakistan has over $300 million annual fisheries export worldwide except EU, but it also imports freshwater fish to the tune of 12,000 metric tons a year, which exporters estimate $40 million loss to national economy. Pangashius and Rohu are the two prominent fish varieties which the country imports from Vietnam and Thailand and markets locally.
The aquatic specie has also received a good response at sales in the country’s two agrarian provinces – Sindh and Punjab. “In Punjab the specie fetched Rs 200 per kg and in Sindh Rs 130 per kg,” sources said, adding that on the global market Tilapia was sold for $2 per kilogram.
Chairman Pakistan Fisheries Exporters Association, Faisal Iftikhar is optimistic about the “aquatic chicken” farming spread in the country and hoping Tilapia will fetch huge foreign exchange to the country, soon. “It grows to maturity quickly as compared to Rohu – a freshwater fish, which takes two years to mature,” he said, adding that Tilapia is expected to scale down the import of Pangashius.
Faisal said: “Tilapia is being harvested at Khenjhar Lake in Sindh”. He said the country has imported Tilapia seed from Thailand, which the exporters associations harvested jointly with National Fisheries Development Board. Pakistan’s seafood export reached record $315.525 million during the fiscal year 2011-12 after its Chinese market grew despite EU ban since 2007. The country exported 124,489 metric tons of seafood during the fiscal year 2012.
The country has not only explored new global venues for its fisheries products but also found some previously uninteresting species valuable like cuttlefish, squid and jelly fish at world markets. China is a key market of cuttlefish and squid, though both species would be treated as by-catch or waste before the local exporters had found its appeal globally.
Tilapia fish originated in Africa whose farming spread into other continents like Asia and Pacific Island where breeding of specie began from 1950s. It is also called aquatic chicken. Tilapia farming has witnessed vast expansion in developed and developing countries, because of its robust growth rate and hardy characteristics. It can be commercially farmed in ponds, in cages in lakes or rivers, or in water tanks or raceways.
The country’s seafood production peaked in 1993 with 499,159 metric tons, which in later years went down to 474,665 metric tons in 1999. After a decade in 2008, the seafood production significantly declined to 344,684 metric tons, according to Marine Fisheries Department.
In 1947, Pakistan’s seafood production was 32,893 metric tons, which increased to 49,525 metric tons a decade after in 1957. The seafood catch swelled in volume to 116,656 metric tons in 1967, which continued to grow to 234,816 metric tons in 1977. Seafood landing surged to 336,129 metric tons in 1987, while in 1997 it reached 422,201 metric tons. The excessive fishing and use of banned nets are attributed to the decline in the seafood stocks at seas for the last decade, which rang alarms for fishermen and national authorities to take immediate steps to save the marine life from collapse.