The aquaculture industry will coordinate with relevant industries to ramp up export of tilapia fish, the highest globally consumed freshwater fish, according to Dr Myint Sein, vice chairman of Myanmar Fishery Federation (MFF).
The goal will be attained by private cooperation with foreign companies, the MFF and foreign government departments via the Myanmar government, he said.
“China controls half of the global tilapia market, and has offered to provide its technical know-how if the MFF or a relevant ministry takes the initiative to negotiate. So we will buy fingerlings (young fish) from them and try to breed the variety ourselves by getting expert help,” Dr Myint Sein said, adding that only an action plan is needed to tap into the existing market.
Tilapia is farmed with other fish species in Myanmar and there are no farms exclusively raising tilapia currently.
Fish farms in Twante, Ma U Bin, Nyaung Tone, Pan Ta Naw, Kha Yan and Thone Khwa suffered losses in 2006 due to low quality of the tilapia breed they cultured, Dr Myint Sein said.
“Mainly the government, entrepreneurs and farmers should jointly prepare a project plan for the development of the industry. Specific plans for issues such as how much tonnage will be produced, how the feedings will be arranged and how production and transportation will be handled are needed,” an Australian aquaculture expert explained.
She also mentioned the success in tilapia farming in Bangladesh, which saw the implementation of a widespread project that has increased the number of farmers from 400 in 2000 to 6,000 in 2013 along with the jump in production from 2,140 tonnes in 2000 to 136,000 tonnes in 2013.
Tilapia is the highest consumed fish in the European Union and the United States. The US is interested in importing 30 shipping containers of tilapia monthly, equivalent to the yearly production in Myanmar, Dr Myint Sein said.
“Although a prospective market like the US is available, we cannot breed good varieties here and so the business is not profitable as tilapia breeds are imported from Thailand. We need to take three steps: cooperation between governments, between the public and private sectors, and among private businesses,” Daw Toe Nandar Tin, chairperson of Myanmar Fishery Product Processors and Exporters Association, told Myanmar Business Today.
The domestic price for tilapia stands at K2,200 to 2,800 per viss(1.6 kilograms) while it fetches from K2,200 to 2,600 per viss in China, according to MFF.
Myanmar’s fishery product exports earn $600 million per year, which is currently made up largely of varieties of carp and catfish.