- Maung Thin Pyant
In Myanmar, lakes and natural watercourses including, Ayeyawady, Thanlwin, Sittoung and Chindwin rivers and the delta region are teeming with various species of local freshwater fish. There is no extreme weather condition in Myanmar and in almost all the places the weather is favourable for farming. As most of the rivers flow from north to south, they run through the cool part, the warm part and the delta of the country, and some are located on mountainous regions.
Only few countries of the world can do commercial fishing in the natural lakes or watercourses, and Myanmar is one among them. So these natural freshwater lakes and rivers are producing aquatic creatures such as fish and prawns and generating job opportunities for locals. Moreover, the State is earning revenue from the local freshwater fishing industry through taxes. So it is important for us to protect and preserve them by enacting necessary laws and regulations. So, we can use them for a long time.
Myanmar is also conducting coastal and deep-sea fishing in the seas. According to a research in 2013 fish resources are dwindling during the period of 33 years. So short-term and long-term plans should be laid down to protect and conserve the eco-systems and coastal areas and deep-water seas and all their inhabitants including salt water fish and prawns. Since 2014, the State has terminated foreign trawlers from fishing in Myanmar waters and designated no-fishing zones and no-fishing seasons.
Fish farming in Myanmar
The 2016-2017 records of Fisheries Department said that Myanmar had 241718 acres of prawn farms and 245807 acres of fish farms. Myanmar is an agro-based county which is on its way towards industrialization. Agriculture and fish and prawn farming are the best financial supporters to reach this end.
For example, Viet Nam, an agro-based country has financed itself through the income from freshwater and saltwater fish and prawn breeding in its development and industrialization process, and later become a country manufacturing motorcycles. The industry is much helpful for the country, especially the farming industry, and now Viet Nam is exporting motorcycles to its Southeast Asian neighbours. This example shows that robust farming industry serves as the solid foundation of the industrialization process.
In Myanmar, Ayeyawady and Bago regions are the main fish and prawn breeders, while Sagaing and Mandalay regions are raising the aquatic animals for local consumption. Eighty per cent of the fish farmed in Myanmar is Indian carp species including Ngagin and Ngathaing. Other fishes such as various species of catfish and other types of carps and some other freshwater fish are also bred in the country. As most of the farms are using only the traditional methods, we need to widely introduce modern techniques. Mostly, farms in the country are low and production and quality, and the fish species they are breeding have smaller market in the world. Now the Union Government and the Fisheries Department are working hard to the overcome this problem.
While Myanmar farms need two years for its Ngagin (a carp species) to become marketable abroad, Viet Nam is earning a lot of foreign currency from exporting Ngadan (a kind of large river catfish) which becomes marketable within four months. We will also earn money within four months by introducing this catfish species. Now there is the fish, the feedstuff factory, the area for breeding, the cold storage and the ready market. Fish farming in Myanmar will enter a new chapter and will earn more income. It will be a milestone of the country.
Myanmar started breeding fish in 1955, and in the 1970s Myanmar was farming fish on commercial scale successfully. With the help of an FAO expert, Myanmar started artificial Insemination in 1966. First, river carps such as Ngagin and Ngathaing were hatched through artificial insemination. From that time on Fisheries Department has been distributing fingerlings without needing to rely on supply from rivers.
Myanmar saw the start of commercial fish farming in the 1970s. It became a fish exporter and later started farming foreign species through artificial insemination, apart from local strains.
As Ngamyitchin (a river carp species) has a smaller market, U Win Kyaing of Fishery Federation strived to introduce Ngadan farming in the country. Now the federation has three one-acre ponds, each breeding 100,000 Ngadan fish, at the Deedok-Momeik inundated field in Pantanaw Township, 80 miles from Yangon. The inundated area is over 3000 acres. Soon, the federation will set up a private company to breed and export Ngadan. Talks were held to explain the formation of a pioneer company. Further meetings will be held for the would-be shareholders.
Ngadan farming will change the fishery sector of Myanmar. Normally tilapia is the most consumed farmed fish followed by Ngadan. Countries like Viet Nam and China are breeding both species on commercial scale.
As Myanmar has a favourable climate for farming, the prospects are bright for the freshwater fishing industry to become the pillar of the country’s economy through the application of modern techniques. After a study abroad for a one-year period, the federation is now starting the Ngadan test breeding in deep lakes whose area is not large. Under the new technique, one-acre field can host 100,000 Ngadan and they will become marketable within 120 days. Test breeding has now reached three months. The introduction of commercial-scale Ngadan farming will be a new chapter of Myanmar’s fishing industry.
Myanmar needs investment, technology, farming zones equipped with all necessary facilities and infrastructure, factories producing modern feedstuff and quality strains to penetrate the global market. Of the 125 cold storages in Myanmar only 20 are acknowledged by EU. Most of the factories can produce only raw materials. Shortage of raw materials has prevented us from effectively applying the GSP.
Myanmar earned over USD 650 million each from the aquatic export in the fiscal years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. But it dropped to USD 536 million in fiscal year 2013-2014. But the country earned USD 712 in 2016-2017. Viet Nam earned USD 8.3 billion from aquatic exports, while Ngadan alone fetched USD 2.5 billion. Prawn export earned USD 3.8 billion. The Government and the fish farmers are striving together to earn over USD 11 billion from aquatic exports in 2020. Thailand is also earning USD 6.5 billion from fish and prawn exports.
As Myanmar has not yet fully utilized it resources, there is much opportunity for the development of aquatic industry. Modern techniques, foreign loans and foreign investment will develop the industry to become the foundation for national industrialization process. As aquatic farming can make money in a short period, local investors should take part in the industry.
(Translated by TMT)