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Unrealised fish export potential

June 17, 2012


PAKISTAN exports reasonable quantity of shrimp, fish and its products, and earns a substantial amount of foreign exchange.

It exports fish meal, fish maws and shark fins, as well as growing quantities of chilled fish for which the main markets are Singapore and the Gulf.

In recent years export of these items has not shown any significant increase because of the increased quantities of fishmeal required by the local poultry industry.

The marine fishing activities in the country are confined to the intense exploitation of inshore resources. Most of the fishing effort is directed toward the shrimp resources, which are fully exploited. Future increase in fish production has to come from a more intense exploitation of offshore pelagic resources.

Fishing in deeper waters could be done by upgraded and converted shrimp trawlers or newly introduced industrial type of boats. While the pelagic resources are now well known and are already well exploited, the prospects for tuna fish in Pakistan EEZ seem to be good. It is estimated that the country can earn an additional $80-100 million by exporting fresh and canned tuna fish, usually sold at throwaway prices in dry form.

About 200,000 tons of tuna fish is caught annually. This fish is sometime exported to Sri Lanka at 50 cents per kg, in dry form, while it can easily fetch $4 per kg or more if properly packed or in fresh form. Recently, Sri Lanka has shown interest in importing salted tuna fish. However, the build-up of tuna fleets by other countries in the region has affected catch rates.

Sizeable stocks of mesopelagic fish have been discovered which in future might be utilised for fish meal and oil production.

Good development prospects also exist in the field of inland fisheries and aquaculture. The country has about two million hectares of freshwater bodies in the form of lakes, reservoirs and rivers, the fisheries potential of which is only slightly utilised at present.

Similarly, the development of brackish-water farming of shrimp in the creeks and estuaries of Sindh offer some prospects.

Improved institutional arrangements, better fish handling, marketing and quality control, the rationalisation of existing fleets and processing plants will all be required if future expansion is to be more orderly and efficient.

Based on the export potential, current and potential employment opportunities and threats to survival of seafood industry in Pakistan, SMEDA decided to review the industrial value chain from harvesting to processing, with the objective to develop a strategy for optimal utilisation of marine resources.

The fisheries development strategy incorporates public and private sector interventions in all effecting areas, i.e., regulation, technology, management, marketing and human resources with a view to increase export earnings, create and sustain employment and bring about qualitative change in lives of millions of people involved in this trade.

The marketing chain for fish is more or less similar to those of other agriculture commodities. Products are sold into the market to wholesalers and then onto retailers and end consumers through agents working on commission basis.

Farmed fish tend to be marketed either at the farm gate, through middle men or during open auction where ice packed fish sent to fish markets after harvest are sold. Buyers can be members of the public, retailers, and wholesalers, agents for processing plants or exporters. Fish markets are very common in Sindh and at selected locations in Punjab. All markets are under the control of the local administration.

The formation of a separate ministry for fisheries will not only ensure that whole hearted attention is paid to this important foreign exchange earning industry, but will also end the disparity and disharmony found between its federal and provincial caretakers who want to shift blame for their failures on others.

All brands exported should be registered with the government and only those brands that are pre-inspected for quality by the authorities at all stages of its production, should allowed to be exported. Most of the fishery units are obsolete with very old machinery to preserve export products and to extend their shelf life. The units are not in good shape and their function is non –uniform and quite often sub-standard.