Growth Prospects for the Fish­ery In­dus­try

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Pak­istan’s fish ex­ports are grow­ing fast af­ter the six- yearold EU ban was lifted on ship­ments to EU mem­ber and due to larger sales to China and Viet­nam.

Ex­ports of fish and fish prepa­ra­tions ex­ceeded 36,000 tonnes dur­ing July- Septem­ber, up 33 per cent from where they stood in a year- ago.

Earn­ings from for­eign sales also rose 34 per cent to $ 85 mil­lion. Ear­lier, between April and June, ex­ports vol­umes had gone up 18 per cent to about 50,700 tonnes though earn­ings at $ 100 mil­lion showed a small in­crease of four per cent.

This ris­ing trend in seafood ex­ports is ex­pected to con­tinue and ex­porters hope that in FY14 the earn­ings may reach closer to $ 400 mil­lion from $ 317 mil­lion in FY13.

The re­sump­tion of ship­ments to EU coun­tries, ever- deep­en­ing pen­e­tra­tion into Chi­nese mar­ket and larger for­eign sales of frozen fish and crus­taceans, like shrimp and lob­sters, in­di­cate that seafood ex­ports would keep grow­ing in com­ing years. In FY13, about one- third of to­tal seafood ex­port earn­ing, or $ 100 mil­lion in ab­so­lute terms, orig­i­nated from China and Viet­nam.

“Ex­ports of salted, dried and smoked fish to China are grow­ing by leaps and bounds,” says a Karachibased ex­porter. “Be­sides, de­mand for fresh or chilled fish and frozen fish is also on the rise. If ex­porters tap the po­ten­tial clev­erly our sales to China alone can fetch $ 60 mil­lion or so dur­ing this fis­cal year. An equal amount can come from Viet­nam where we sell lots of frozen fish as well as shrimp and lob­sters, etc.”

Other ma­jor mar­kets for Pak­istani seafood in­clude Thai­land, South Korea, Saudi Ara­bia, In­done­sia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Hong Kong, Ja­pan, Kuwait and the UAE, etc.

Fish ex­porters de­mand that theTrade Devel­op­ment Au­thor­ity of Pak­istan ( TDAP) must build a ded­i­cated har­bour for shrimp peel­ing plants, start pro­vid­ing fi­nances for im­port of fish­ing nets and for con­struc­tion of fibre glass fish­ing boats, in­stall large power gen­er­a­tors at Karachi Fish Har­bour to en­sure un­in­ter­rupted sup­ply of elec­tric­ity and de­velop Ibrahim Hy­deri fish har­bour on mod­ern lines to boost seafood ex­ports. They say TDAP can un­der­take th­ese and sim­i­lar pro­jects out of the ex­port devel­op­ment fund it col­lects from ex­porters.

Ex­porters say ex­ports of shrimp and lob­sters saw an im­pres­sive 30 per cent growth in FY13 and even faster growth is ex­pected af­ter the re­open­ing of the EU mar­ket. They say that timely set­ting up of shrimp peel­ing plants har­bour can help tap grow­ing de­mand.

With a long coast­line, Pak­istan’s fish­ery re­sources are enor­mous, but only a frac­tion has been ex­ploited so far. Lack of in­vest­ment is a big im­ped­i­ment. Sev­eral stud­ies have pointed out that in Pak­istan’s ju­ris­dic­tion in the Ara­bian Sea, com­mer­cial species of crus­taceans like shrimp and lob­sters have been over­ex­ploited.

“Now, there is a need to de­velop ma­rine nurs­eries of shrimp and lob­sters along the coast­line in such pre- iden­ti­fied ar­eas where rel­a­tively less fish­ing ac­tiv­i­ties take place to en­sure future sup­plies,” says a lead­ing Karachi- based ex­porter.

Lately, whereas ex­port vol­umes of seafood have gone up, the per unit ex­port prices have re­mained ei­ther stag­nant or showed a nom­i­nal in­crease. There are two rea­sons for this: Tuna fish, the most ex­pen­sive among all, is not caught in big vol­umes.

Be­sides, its pro­cess­ing is not as good as in Ja­pan, for ex­am­ple, which helps fetch higher per unit price of the fish and its prepa­ra­tions. Though other ex­pen­sive fish like Sal­mon, Hilsa Rahu, Dho­tar, Mushka and Kund are found in great quan­ti­ties, lack of tech­nol­ogy blocks their ad­vanced pro­cess­ing and pack­ag­ing. This too low­ers their per unit prices.

Of­fi­cials of fish­eries depart­ment point out that in the last few years, lo­cal con­sump­tion of fish, both ma­rine and in­land, has been on the rise — thanks to in­creased aware­ness among peo­ple about their health ben­e­fits.

This means ex­port- led lo­cal pur­chases have be­come costlier, leav­ing lesser mar­gin for ex­porters who com­pete fiercely with such fish- pro­duc­ing coun­tries like Bangladesh, Mal­dives, In­dia, China and Viet­nam. Ex­ports of Ira­nian fish va­ri­eties that had started threat­en­ing Pak­istani ex­porters have shrunk, due to difficulties Iran is fac­ing in ex­ter­nal trade be­cause of the US- led trade sanc­tions. “This has helped us grab a big­ger share of the Chi­nese and other mar­kets in­clud­ing those in Africa,” says an­other fish ex­porter from Karachi.

Pak­istan’s to­tal fish pro­duc­tion in nine months of the last fis­cal year stood at around 730,000 tonnes against 725,000 tonnes in the pre­vi­ous year. Of this more than 100,400 tonnes of fish were ex­ported and the rest was con­sumed lo­cally. Ex­porters say that with re­open­ing of the EU mar­ket and with high de­mand for Pak­istani fish emerg­ing from China and Viet­nam, growth in ex­ports vol­umes would re­main strong, cre­at­ing the need for boost­ing fish pro­duc­tion.

Peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with fish­ing busi­ness say cur­rently 65 per cent of to­tal fish pro­duc­tion is through in­land re­sources i. e., rivers and fish­ing ponds and only 35 per cent of it comes from ma­rine sources. “Since ex­ports are dom­i­nated by ma­rine fish, there must be a com­pre­hen­sive plan to al­low faster breed­ing of ma­rine fish be­sides mak­ing moves to save them from dy­ing due to ma­rine pol­lu­tion,” a se­nior of­fi­cial of Sindh fish­eries depart­ment said.

One ma­jor road­block in in­creas­ing seafood ex­ports is grow­ing cost of trans­porta­tion of fish from Balochis­tan to Karachi. Of­fi­cials say this is­sue can be ad­dressed in two ways.

First, Balochis­tan- based ex­porters should start us­ing Gwadar port fa­cil­ity for ship­ments and se­condly, when ex­porters need to ship out their con­sign­ments from Karachi port, the gov­ern­ment should pick up part of the trans­porta­tion cost to help them re­main com­pet­i­tive in ex­port mar­ket

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