China, Middle East demand for striped catfish grows, stokes breeder interest

Freshwater catfishes are seen at a small-scale fish farm.  Photo: Myint Oo (Myeik)
Freshwater catfishes are seen at a small-scale fish farm.  Photo: Myint Oo (Myeik)

With the demand for striped catfish witnessing a growth in China and countries from the Middle East, breeders in Myanmar are being urged to increase production, according to the Myanmar Fisheries Federation (MFF).
Myanmar’s striped catfish has now a great demand from China and the Middle East countries. Starting last month, Myanmar has shipped about 8 containers of striped catfish to China and about 14 containers to countries in the Middle East.
At present, Myanmar is exporting scraped striped catfish meat and ready-to-eat products. Some Chinese companies want to purchase striped catfish skin, oil, and swim bladder.
Striped catfish started to penetrate the export market last year. As demand for the fish has been growing significantly, the MFF has been urging fish farmers to increase area under striped catfish production in the past few months. As a result, the number of striped catfish farmers is estimated to have risen by 40 per cent, said U Zaw Lin.
“China has shown a strong interest in striped catfish. However, we still cannot cater to the size and volume that they want,” said U Zaw Lin, treasurer of the MFF and a breeder.
According to breeders, farmers can harvest striped catfish three times a year, as they grow faster than other species. The fish is also resistant to disease, therefore, farming striped catfish can help farmers reap great profits, said breeders.
“The striped catfish now has a strong market. Only the production needs to satisfy the demand,” said U Win Kyaing, the general secretary of the MFF.
Besides the export market, the demand for striped catfish among local consumers and dried fish processors has also been growing. This being so, the current market price of striped catfish is higher than in the previous years. The export price is Ks200 higher than the domestic market prices.
Breeders primarily farm 65 per cent of rohu, 15 per cent of striped catfish, 7 per cent of freshwater silver, and 4 per cent of white mrigal carp, while the rest 9 per cent constitutes other fish species.
Local breeders are still watching the market as the record export of striped catfish has not been seen before. Exporters are also hesitating to export them while production is still low.
“With the emergence of a strong market, all stakeholders in the supply chain, including exporters, suppliers, and breeders need to be engaged. It will be better if the Fisheries Department conducts tours to raise awareness on striped catfish farming among breeders. Supply chain management – from
farming to consumption and export – is required. With the engagement of stakeholders, a stronger market will emerge. At present, stakeholder involvement is still poor,” said U Zaw Lin, a breeder.
Rohu and mrigal carp are the main items on Myanmar’s fish exports. Rohu prices have plunged because of Saudi Arabia’s restriction on rohu importation this year, and breeders are suffering. The fish market is expected to recover once Myanmar begins exporting fishery products to the European Union from 1 December.
To ensure food safety, the European market requires suppliers to have Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Good Aquaculture Practice (GAqP) certificates. Myanmar has only a small number of entrepreneurs who hold those certificates, so, fish breeders are prepping for this. An MFF delegation went on a study tour to striped catfish farms in Viet Nam last April.
Myanmar still lags several supplier countries in using advanced fish farming technology, said Daw Toe Nanda Tin, the vice president of the MFF. Capital investment in the sector is also insufficient, she said. (Translated by Ei Mon)

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