Fish farms explore new breeding options on rising costs

Local fish farms are in a bind. Not only are fish feed prices on the rise, export demand from Saudi Arabia, the largest buyer of Myanmar-produced fishery products, has fallen dramatically. As a result, fish farmers have been forced to change tact. Now, they are breeding fish to meet demand from China and improvising to lower production costs.

One of the main problems for the fisheries sector is rising prices of fish feed, which is made from bran. Currently, bran prices are at their highest level in five years. At K650 per viss, bran prices are 30 percent higher than previous years, said U Thet Muu, chair of the Myanmar Fish and Prawn Feed Manufacturers Association.

Meanwhile, export demand from Saudi Arabia has tumbled since the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) in April suspended temporarily fish and prawn imports from Vietnam, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India.

The suspension had been extended to Myanmar after inspections at fishery facilities in Vietnam revealed poor hygiene standards. Fishery exports to Saudi Arabia bring annual revenues of $ 25 million-$35 million to Myanmar. More than 21,000 tonnes of Myanmar fish and prawns are shipped yearly to Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia is the biggest buyer of Myanmar fisheries. Since it suspended imports, the domestic fisheries sector has taken a big hit,” said Daw Toe Nanda Tin, vice chair of the Myanmar Fishery Federation.

Now, Myanmar’s fish farms are turning to new breeding options to survive. Lately, the industry has started breeding freshwater catfish, which is in high demand in China. In the past, most farms bred a variety of carp, which the Saudi’s favoured.

Meanwhile, the farms are also exploring ways to reduce production costs to offset rising feed prices. Some are upgrading to more modern breeding techniques while others are working with the government to reduce the disease rate in farmed fish, said Daw Toe Nanda Tin.

According to statistics provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, Myanmar produced a total of 5.7 million tonnes of fish in 2016-17. Freshwater fish contributed around 47pc to total production during the period.

During the year, Myanmar exported close to 440,000 tonnes of fish worth $605.8 million to 40 different countries, which is about 8 pc of total production.

Source: Myanmar Times

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