Fish farming gaining popularity in Ilam

May 19, 2017

The Kathmandu Post, Biplav Bhattarai, 18th May 2017

Bijay Shrestha of Danabari, Ilam spends his entire day looking after his fish farm that is spread over 15 ropanis. The workday lasts from dawn to dusk even with his family helping him, but it is a financially rewarding occupation too.

Shrestha’s farm produces 2.5 tonnes of fish annually, and the entire harvest is sold within the district. The fish produced on his farm fetches up to Rs400 per 

kilo, and it is sold instantly in nearby areas. 

“Finding a market is not a problem at all,” said Shrestha. “Demand for locally grown fresh fish is very high.” 

Shrestha went into aquaculture five years ago; and at that time, he faced many difficulties due to lack of technical knowledge. 

There was no technical support from the concerned government agencies like the District Agriculture Development Office (DADO). So Shrestha formed a farmers’ group and started promoting commercial farming in the district. 

Gradually, many farmers followed Shrestha’s lead, and Ilam district is seeing a new investment wave in warm water aquaculture due to high rates of return on the investment and massive demand for local fish in the district. 

Although Ilam locals have been rearing fish for their own consumption for a long time, commercial farming started only recently. Tilak Singh Fago of Chulachuli is also earning a good income after choosing fish farming over traditional crops. Ilam district used to be largely dependent imports from India, but it is slowly becoming self-sufficient in fish.  

Growing attraction for aquaculture has led to a surge in demand for fingerlings, according to DADO Ilam which is providing them to farmers. “A few years ago, there was not much demand for fingerlings in the district,” said Lakpa Bhutia, technical assistant of DADO Ilam. “However, currently demand has outstripped supply.”  

Locals of Chulachuli, Danabari, Deumai and Suryodaya are more attracted towards commercial fish farming. “A few years ago, DADO Ilam was barely able to 

sell 120 kg of fingerlings,” said Bhutia. “This year, we have already supplied 635 kg, but we have not been able to fulfil the entire demand of farmers.” 

The DADO supplies fingerlings from a state-owned fish nursery at Belbari, Morang. There is high demand for grass carp fingerlings in the district due to its suitable climate. The DADO also distributes other breeds like cat fish, common carp and silver carp, among others.