Saturday, August 19, 2017

Fisheries exporters call for dialogue

A shortage of raw materials is hampering exporters of processed fisheries and adding extra pressure on the industry at a time when it’s facing greatly reduced profit margins, several industry insiders said last week.

U Soe Myint Kyaw, chairman of the Myanmar Fisheries Products Processors and Exporters Association, said a number of factories in Yangon and Myeik are not getting enough fish to operate.

“Our association has studied 52 fisheries factories in Yangon and Myeik and found that they don’t get enough raw materials to run their processing plants properly,” he said.

He said farmers were growing the wrong species of fish.

“Fish farmers are mainly growing rohu and while we have export markets for this fish, there’s only so much they require. When we studied the rohu market, we discovered that most of the fish exported to the Middle East is eaten by Indian and Bangladeshi workers tehre,” U Moe Myint Kyaw said.

“Rohu is not an internationally accepted table fish because it has too many bones and is difficult to fillet. International markets want fish with white flesh and few bones that are easy to fillet,” he said.

U Tun Aye, the managing director of Shwe Yamone Company in Yangon’s Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone, which exports fisheries products to the Middle East and Europe, said fish farmers should consider breeding other fish species.

“We should not expand rohu production because we’ve already met market demand. We need to identify other species that have greater international demand,” U Tun Aye said.

“Giant seabass [ka ka tit] and yellowtail catfish [nga tan] have market potential. If we can raise them, our exports will be high,” he said.

However, he said that his factory cannot buy enough of those species, which are mostly caught from the wild.

“My factory can process 30 tonnes a day but I’m only able to buy about 5 tonnes a day from fishermen. Relying on the wild catch is not wise because it fluctuates,” he said. “It would be much better if fish farmers were farming giant seabass and yellowtail catfish instead of rohu,” he said.

He said giant seabass and yellowtail catfish would be snapped up by Japanese consumers.

“Japan wants to buy our products because our waters are less polluted compared with Vietnam, which is Japan’s major supplier at present,” he said.

U Moe Myint Kyaw said better coordination between farmers and exporters is necessary if new markets are to be opened up.

“We need to identify which markets we want to target, and what species those markets demand,” he said, adding that rohu farming should be scaled back.

He added that the industry also needed government support.

“If we are to compete in the international market, our rules and regulations and taxation must be in line with other countries,” he said.

“We are not alone – we are competing with other countries such as Thailand and Vietnam to sell fisheries. We need to ensure our exporters don’t face greater challenges than our competitors in selling our fisheries,” U Moe Myint Kyaw said.

U Tun Aye said there is ample incentive to find ways of boosting exports.

“Vietnam earned US$5 billion from fisheries exports last year. Vietnam’s export volume is so high because farmers and exporters work together to identify which fish are in demand in specific export markets.”