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September 23, 2019

River catfish farming for national economic progress

  • By Mg Thin Pyant / (Photo: Zwe Mahnn)
Freshwater catfish is seen at a fish farm.

Global Earth Agro & Aqua Industry Public Company Limited is building a fish farm and factories on 900 acres of flooded area on Shwelaung road, Pantanaw Township, Ayeyawady Region. The whole area of the flooded area is over 3000 acres and it is 135 kilometers from Yangon. Heavy machines are at work under the morning sun. Confidently, the multiple fish farm will be the pioneer of the model faming zones that will earn lots of foreign currency not only for the country, but also for the Ayeyawady Region. One day it will become the springboard for national economic growth.
Fish ponds located near Shwelaung River can breed quality fish because of the easier inflow and outflow of water at the farm. Vietnam is gaining markets as it breeds fish in the pond located along the banks of the Mekong river. Vietnam is witnessing rapid progress of agriculture and breeding industry, and earning much foreign currency from river catfish farming. Likewise, the fish breeding ponds near Shwelaung which is linked with Ayeyawady River will one day become a farming zone with, cold storages, reprocessing factories, large breeding ponds and electricity. It will also be helpful for river catfish breeding. Prospects are bright that it will generate job opportunities and income for locals.
Apart from producing 150,000 tons of fish per year, efforts are being made to dig fish ponds and erect feedstuff factories, cold storage, packing factories and fish processing factories.
The multiple fish farming project will concentrate on river catfish and prawns. Instead of using the traditional method, river catfish will be bred in deeper and narrow ponds. Of the marketable aqua-products including prawns, tilapia, snake fish and other species, river catfish is the most cost-effective product as all its parts are useful in one way or another. But the quality of fish sometimes depends on geological conditions.
Global Earth Agro & Aqua Industry Public Company Limited is breeding small, medium and large river catfish in its ponds. As the tropical fish has high demand in developed countries of the northern sphere, it is an opportunity for the country’s fish industry. Hard work and unity will overcome all challenges we are facing in the technical sector.

Workers harvest river catfish at a fish farm in Pantanaw.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation has adopted the goals, work programs and policies in accordance with its visions. We are working towards the flourishing of a sustainable farming industry that will ensure national food security and nutrition, improve the rural socio-economy and help develop the national economy. The five-year strategic plan includes agriculture sector, livestock sector and rural development and cooperatives sector. Of them fish breeding has the highest potentials for rapid development. But Processing &Value Added sector must be included for the progress of the farm-related industries. According to the survey, farms need to send their products directly to the market. In fact, the production-to-market theory is in accord with the ministry’s policy. The ministry is also paving the way for inclusive participation in the fish farming industry.
Food security and nutrition are important. As fish farming needs capital, inclusive efforts will realize the goals. Fish farmers should study the techniques disseminated by the ministry as the adoption of modern techniques will develop the industry. But we must aware of their impacts on the bio security. As the whole flooded area has an area of over 3000 acres, it is a bright opportunity for both the local and foreign investors. Truly, the fish farming zone will be attractive for foreign countries, particularly the neighbours.
Fisheries have two parts – catching and breeding. The nation needs to introduce modern techniques, as it faced technical weakness for its reliance on traditional methods. So we need to export more finished goods to increase income, rather than relying on raw material exports. The fish farming zone will fulfill domestic demand in addition to exports.
“We have all the geographical advantages; all we need is the technology, feed, factories, transport network and a reliable market. We are making efforts for all to adopt Good Aquaculture Practices,” said Director General of Fisheries Department U Khin Maung Maung.
Vietnam is now exporting its fish products to US, EU, Japan and China, earning a large amount of US dollars every year. The fish industry serves as the springboard for rapid develop the Vietnamese economy. Myanmar should follow Vietnam’s steps. “The main task of the Myanmar Fishery Federation is to develop the aqua industry. When we studied fish farms of the some ASEAN countries and China, we came to realize that we were following the wrong method; and that rive cat fish and prawns have the biggest global market. So we set up a public company. In Vietnam they normally cultivate rice on seven acres and breed fresh water prawns on the remaining three areas of a 10-acre plot of land. So we need to introduce new ways like them. We must gather our internal strength while inviting investments from abroad. The Fisheries Department needs to supply fish and prawn fingerlings,” said Vice-President of the Federation Dr Toe Nanda Tin.
As the investment may be high, inclusive efforts of all stakeholders including the Union Government is required.
Although the country encouraged fish farming throughout the past successive periods, there were weakness in capital and departmental cooperation. As the relevant ministries have already made relaxations to the most possible degree, all stakeholders should join hands with the Union Government to enter a new era of fish farming. From the fish farming industry, we must add other related sectors such as food procession, finished-good production through cooperative efforts.
Foundation laying of the factories of the project on Shwelaung road, Pantanaw Township, Ayeyawady Region, will complete before the arrival of monsoons in the last week of March. Foreign investors are studying the project.
The mega project needs lots of investments. It can also be a living laboratory for students of Yangon University. Students can witness the whole process from producing fingerlings to packing finished products and transporting to markets. Moreover it can also generate jobs for the graduates.
The project will conduct all the stages from hatching to producing at a single place. Of the investment amount of USD 200 million, the company invests 40 percent and the remaining 60 percent will come from loans. The project started in 2017. The chair of the company who is also the president of the federation has studied river cat fish breeding in other countries. The Global Earth Agro & Aqua Industry Public Company Ltd wishes to cooperate with local fish farmers, and hopes that interested investors will pour money into the project. Soon, multiple fish farming zone will appear in Pantanaw Township, near Yangon.
(Translated by TMT)

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