Fish growers seek reprieve amid high production

The rising inflationary pressure from the global supply chain disruption, the war in Ukraine, and spiraling petroleum prices have stolen the limelight in recent months.

The resulting costlier raw materials led to surging prices in fish farm inputs, with local fish growers feeling headwinds raising bangus (milkfish) and tilapia (St. Peter’s fish).

“Due to the low quality of feeds, Filipino favorites like bangus and tilapia grown in fish farms now need more feed to grow to marketable sizes,” Tugon Kabuhayan convenor Asis Perez said in an interview. Tugon Kabuhayan is an umbrella group of agriculture stakeholders promoting food security.

Perez said the costly fish feeds and insufficient fingerlings were hampering the productivity of fish farms throughout the country and called on government intervention.

If this persists, Perez, a former director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, warned that domestic production might decline and could potentially lead to a spike in aquaculture commodity prices in the local markets.

Various fish farm groups said their feed conversion ratio, an indicator of production cost, has gone up. FCR is the ratio of the feed needed to produce a kilo of fish.

Adrienne Nara, the Taal Lake Aquaculture Alliance Inc. spokesperson, told reporters that FCR for his group, a top fish supplier to Metro Manila, has increased from 1.8 to 2 to the current 2.2 to 2.4. The group’s FCR sometimes reaches 2.6.

Meanwhile, Iloilo-based David Villaluz, chairperson of the Philippine Association of Fish Producers Inc., said a kilo of bangus in Visayas farms consumes 1.2 to 1.6 kilos of feed to grow large enough to be harvested. Now they need 1.8 to 2 kilos of fish feed.

“Higher FCR translates to a P10 per kilo increase in production cost, and add the P4 per kilo increase in feed cost, and the total increase in production cost is P14. Small fish farms may not be able to bear these additional costs,” Villaluz explained.

In another related development, fish raisers said they would need government support to implement the Brood Stock Project to increase production and lower the cost of fish farming in the country.
For his part, Mindanao-based Joseph Anthony Lanzar, president of the Malalag Bay Fish Cage Operators and Fisherfolks Association, said, “Our problem is that we are having a shortage of fry. The fry being shipped from Indonesia is often low-quality.”

Lanzar pointed out that a central hatchery can provide enough fry to growers and will stop the country’s dependence on importation.

In April this year, the fishery industry called on the government to allow the regulated importation of porcine PAP or processed animal proteins to address the concern of the non-availability of quality feeds.

The National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council supported the call, while BFAR regional directors endorsed it.

With the recent approval of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Bureau of Animal Industry has issued a Memorandum Circular providing for fully regulated importation of PAP exclusively for the aquaculture industry. To date, the industry is still waiting for the full implementation of this regulation.

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