Dr. Shahzad Naveed Jadoon
Pakistan being endowed with enormous natural resources, fresh and marine water as well as brackish water resources, holds immense potential for aquaculture. The over-catch and depletion of the wild fisheries has provoked serious efforts to alternate it with more sustainable aquaculture. Fish and shrimp along with other aquaculture spp. are among premium commodities of the world and make up 6.7% of the total animal protein consumed by human.
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 been seen by the private sector and a little by government, yet unfortunate to tap international market because of the scattered local market regime and lack of policy, standards and certification and skillful human resource.
A multi-challenged industry at present needs collaboration of the public-private sector for creating an immediate line of action. Assessing the current scenario of COVID-19 and its impact on the industry, time based needs are highlighted in this paper and recommendations are presented to better cope with this situation and thereafter.
The existing situation highly likely to reset the market dynamics and transform the food attitude of the consumer with more consciousness towards nutrition, health, quality and safety for which aquaculture foreseen to be the future. The time is demanding change, embrace it, turn it to an opportunity and gear our industry to meet the local as well as international protein demand.
There is a hope in despair, all we have to do is to set the sail swiftly. Future aquaculture is holding huge opportunities in term of quality protein, livelihood, decent jobs, effective utilization of barren lands, economy and export revenues etc. thus will also reduce threat of food security and safety. To better grab these opportunities, establishment of ONELINK is to be primarily done.
OVERVIEW OF SECTOR
Despite of blessed with natural water resources, refer to as agriculture land, having an extended coastline of 1050 Km and more, Pakistan aquaculture has often found getting little attention and has not tapped to its true potential. Majority proportion is from capture fisheries due to limited culture, for which Sindh is the HUB. Except the fact that over 70% of the world-wild stock has been depleted, however, 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, saving the habitat and diversity though creating decent livelihood.
Pakistan aquaculture is in infancy and growing slowly at a rate of 1.5%. 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 rear 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 with supply from couple of hatcheries and feed mills, to processing plants. An underdeveloped supply chain, value addition and markets. From cage, recirculating to intensive (IPRS) culture, a range has been seen adopted by both govt. and private sector to maximize the production with efficient systems. But the story still needs to refine 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 are there surfacing to better support the facts improving and adapting the local genetic diversity to the best of farmer, people and country.
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 60% rural population 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 factor 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. Government has already allocated a set budget for lifting and developing this sector. It’s the right time to devise a strategic plan and start working on it as when the market gets stable, our industry will also be effective and operating at its full potential with quality products.
Assessing the needs of the hour, following funneled down categories require an immediate address.
Short term needs
– Online ABCD programs: Get reach and connect to maximum farmers, pool and educate via online platforms.
– Zoning and get database align.
– Strict implementation of biosecurity.
– Build standards for all operations and end products (International guidelines and standards).
Medium term needs
– Build prosumer behavior survey.
– Identify and mark cluster: make sure to facilitate extension services at farm door.
– Revision of production protocols.
– Development of supply chain.
– Farm auditing.
Long term needs
– Highlight importance of using specie specific and additive products.
– Strengthen research and development.
– Human resource management and employments.
– Supply Chain and Value Addition.
– Conduct regular surveys- evaluate prosumer behavior and trends.
– Break seasonality myth through consumer education.
– Accessibility – Food on Wheel.
– Food Safety and Security.
– Capacitate the industry by devising a fisheries policy.
– Facilitate producer, processor and exporters.
Figuring out the needs and analyzing the potential of aquaculture, it has foreseen that how well it can revolutionize the livings as well as the economy of the country. Aquaculture is future in Pakistan as of number of reasons: advantageous for effective use of resources (barren lands), a direct livelihood for many alleviating poverty and addressing malnutrition and stunting, potentiated commodity to generate export revenue and nonetheless, a gateway for jobs and developing entrepreneurs. All this further gets supported by the Government friendly initiatives in loop.
In view of the above challenges and aquaculture potential, below are some recommendations for reframing the industry to grow and perform exponentially.
– Aquaculture is the fastest growing and lucrative food sector in the world. This sector has to be responsibly owned by the government under the umbrella of agriculture and should be equally enabled by reducing electricity bills, exclusion of income tax and wave off of duties and taxes on inputs.
– For aquaculture advancement, Farmers and stakeholders should be maximum facilitated to strengthen this sector by exempting import duties of the machinery and equipment (Feed & Seed). In this regard, Policy and Aqua Feed Act should be framed prior.
– Aquaculture Farmer Association is the need of the hour which will not only club aquaculture scattered regime but will also be working for cumulative benefit of farmer and industry.
– Local genetic diversity should be taken into account and in-line with research to deal with the challenges related to availability and quality of seed, local adaptation, early mortalities and disease.
– Aquaculture practices need to be modernized therefore guidelines plus technical support should reach the farmers, hatchery owners and processors.
– Standardization and certification are vital elements for aquaculture product to get entry in the international market. Local regulatory and quality control further aid this. Inspections should be carry out in order to identify the quality chunks and further set as model examples for other.
– From seed to food, development of the supply chain with direct regional fish markets and access to farmers, will further ease and double the efficiency and also enable better food safety and security.
– To ensure the availability of the fish around the year, Fish processing plants should be subsidized for which Fish processing incentive umbrella programs should be launched to maximum encourage the processors. This will not only improve the local fish preference but will also have noticeable impact on exports.
– Public-Private linkages should be promoted and strengthen as working in collaboration will fuel the growth of the industry
– Local consumer behavior and trends impede aquaculture to fetch good market. To break this pattern, prosumer behavior study survey should be conducted to fabricate aquaculture into consumer oriented products and develop product line accordingly. Likewise, consumer awareness programs should be design and spread the words via TV, radio, airtime and social media.
– Without skillful human resource, aquaculture industry barely be drive to its potential. Capacity building of human resource should be prioritize and programs like ABCD- Agribusiness Coaching and Development, Aqua incubation centers, Master trainers and diploma/short courses should be offered.
– Nevertheless, monitoring and evaluation will flourish growth curve and food security.
( Dr. Shahzad Naveed Jadoon is Free Lance
Writer, Expert Poultry sector and social worker. [email protected]