Fish is a Future Protein…
Advanced Technologies V/S Conventional Fish Farming
Pakistan being endowed with enormous natural resources, fresh and marine water as well as brackish water resources, holds immense potential for aquaculture. But unfortunately had barely been an interesting subject from both business investment and economy point of view. Aquaculture has emerged as a radical solution to serve as potential protein source for future as it is an effective converter of resources and has least impact on the environment as compared to other species like Cow, Chicken etc. Aquaculture is booming around the globe whereas, Pakistan aquaculture is mostly of traditional manner, limited to carps with underdeveloped supply chain and poor local market. However, an advancement has been seen by the private sector and a little by government, yet unfortunate to tap international market because of the scattered local market regime, lack of policy, standards and certification, and skillful human resource.
Except the fact that over 70% of the world-wild stock has been depleted, Pakistan fisheries and aquaculture largely dependent on wild catch. As it has also been overfished, initiatives are in loop to divide the pressure on capture fisheries and shift interest to aquaculture, for not only meeting the protein demand of the population, but also saving the habitat, diversity and creating decent livelihood.
PAKISTAN FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE SECTOR
Pakistan aquaculture is in infancy and growing slowly at a rate of 1.5%. A mass fisheries and aquaculture activities are carried out in Sindh province – where wild fish is captured and marketed – followed by Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK).
Mostly semi-intensive system being practiced and seen limited to carp culture because of the local consumer preference for species like Rohu (Labeo rohita) and Thaila (Catla catla). Culture systems are evolving so is the choice for the fish species like tilapia, catfish, and snakehead etc. Among cold water species reared in northern areas, rainbow trout (Salmo trutta and Oncorhynchus mykiss) enjoys premium price because of high demand by the tourists. There are other species (tor tor, seenghala etc.) that are of significant potential for culture in Pakistan.
At present, there are 13000 Fish Farms which receive supply from couple of hatcheries and feed mills, to processing plants. An underdeveloped supply chain, value addition and markets. From cages to recirculating intensive (IPRS, RAS, Biofloc) culture, a range of techniques have been seen adopted by both govt. and private sector to maximize the production and improve profitability. But the story still needs to refine a lot before it get shared.
In light of trade value, Pakistan has exported a volume of 130,830 MT of worth US$ 293million for year 2019, which was entirely comprised of marine catch, making a little in international aquaculture trade market value of 231.6 billion. Aquaculture production for year 2019 reported was 151000 ton (Economic Survey of Pakistan 2018-19). It contributes to 0.4% of GDP (Gross domestic product).
Trends in local fish consumptions are devastating, which is only 2kg per capita as compared to that of 20.3 kg per capita of the world. It is direct employment source for almost four lakh people and indirectly the number gets double.
Although Pakistan has a diverse fish fauna, but the aquaculture has seen limited to few species which include exotic species as well. The supply of seed depends on the native countries. To address this, local hatcheries were built and made operational to provide the seed to the farmer but those are still questionable for quality of strain. Major challenges arise often when it comes to local adaptations, disease, early nutrition, and fish welfare. Unfortunately, our research has overlapped a lot and no customized studies.
Right genetics should follow by right nutrition for the success of aquaculture production. When it comes to nutrition, it is well recognized that feed component contribute 70% of the operational cost, which is huge. At present, a very few farmers in Pakistan have switched from traditional to commercial feed. Credit driven market, High input cost, lack of specie specific nutritional product range and local case studies demonstrating feed efficiencies, cost benefit margins and ROI, makes it hard for the feed millers to firm their feet on the farms.
Aquaculture management is fairly new for the farmers as most of them are from rural population (60%) which are unaware of the scarcity issue, importance of monitoring, biosecurity, keeping database and inventories. Moreover, they are practicing outdated traditional approaches that limits their efficiency and expansion.
Furthermore, we lag far behind in fish processing because of multiple reasons that includes high processing unit cost, unskillful human resource, and local consumption pattern that shows that the local population is yet not ready for the processed fish products. Less mechanization, another factor which raise concern about steady supply and safety, those with advance units are entirely dedicated to wild catch. Lack of standards and certification further limits, our little processed products to enter the international market.
A rudimentary supply chain, value addition, unskillful human resource are limiting factors to this industry’s growth, expansion and performance.
In the current scenario, where the world’s different sectors are facing an adverse pandemic effect, aquaculture is no exception. With movement restriction, closure of ports, restaurants and dines, the world aquaculture industry has shattered greatly whereas in Pakistan the industry suffering a little as it’s in rearing phase. Although, supply of seed to the farm and feed ingredients to feed mill cum feed to farm are a challenge but as the volume is not too big so, that doesn’t cause much. It serve as a blessing in disguise for Pakistan aquaculture to turn it to an opportunity and prepare to tap the local and international markets in this time window.