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Fish output growth needed to keep up with population rise estimated at 50,000 MT/year

THE GROWTH of fisheries output needed to keep up with the rising population was estimated at about 50,000 metric tons (MT) a year, with most of the new demand to be met by aquaculture, advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan said.

In a virtual briefing, Tugon Kabuhayan convenor Asis G. Perez said that based on United Nations data, the Philippine population is estimated to hit 111.05 million in 2021, and estimated fish demand this year at 4.086 million MT.

“By 2031, we need to produce (an additional) 500,000 MT to provide for the needs of the projected 125.02 million population, which is projected to consume around 4.6 million MT,” Mr. Perez said.

“With most fishing grounds showing signs of overfishing, it is only prudent to target the 500,000 MT increase in fisheries production through aquaculture,” he added.

“Right now, around 60% of the fish being produced around the world comes from aquaculture, while 40% are from capture fisheries,” he added.

Jon G. Juico, president of the Philippine Tilapia Stakeholders Association, said the needed increase in production can be achieved, adding that there are still a number of underutilized fish farms across the country.

“In terms of tilapia production, it can be increased,” Mr. Juico said.

However, Mr. Juico said the industry has encountered problems in bringing produce to market due to logistics issues caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“There are also certain markets in Metro Manila that closed down which were the traditional markets for fish farmers and traders,” Mr. Juico said.

Renato B. Bocaya, assistant vice-president for sales of Finfish Hatcheries, Inc., said there was an oversupply of fisheries products in the three months to November, which caused some small businesses to exit.

Mr. Bocaya said production costs for the period was around P90 to P100 per kilogram, but businesses were only able to sell for P70 to P80 per kilogram due to the oversupply caused by travel restrictions.

“Many cage operators across the country have experienced problems in selling their products from one province to another. It also did not help that the buying capacity of Filipino consumers declined last year,” Mr. Bocaya said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Perez said the plan of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to ease the import process for fish will be “dangerous” for the aquaculture sector.

In February, NEDA announced its proposal to fast-track food imports, including fisheries products, to bring down rising food prices.

Mr. Perez said the main problem of domestic producers is how to sell their produce. If they have to compete with imports, their burdens will be compounded.

“It’s not a question of availability, but a question of the logistical system that we are having primarily as a result of the pandemic,” Mr. Perez said.

“Our problem is not production, but logistics and postharvest losses. We should focus on that and not on importation,” he added.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) estimates that fisheries output in 2020 fell 0.3% to 4.403 million MT.

The PSA said aquaculture accounted for 52.8% or 2.32 million MT, followed by municipal fisheries at 25% or 1.10 million MT, and commercial fisheries with 22.2% or 978,170 MT. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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