Fish imports sink 30pc as domestic production swells

April 17, 2019

Shankar Acharya, The Kathmandu Post, April 17, 2019

Fish imports from Birgunj customs point has dropped 30 percent in the first nine months of the current fiscal year largely due to strict enforcement of quarantine rules by Indian authorities.

The Indian quarantine office has mandated traders to get an approval letter before exporting healthy meat.

However, government officials said it was a result of increased domestic output as the country is gradually attaining self-sufficiency in fish production.

According to the Animal Quarantine Office, Birgunj, the country imported 169 tonnes of fresh fish through Birgunj customs point during the mid-July to mid-April period, as compared to 240 tonnes in the same time period last fiscal year.

Domestic production of fish has been increasing with the government’s project focused on encouraging fisheries by launching a fish super zone at different parts of Tarai districts, said Hare Ram Yadav, chief of the Animal Quarantine Office.

The government has been offering grants and other technical support to farmers in order to increase fish output. Besides, many farmers have been attracted towards fish farming as domestic demand has swelled, he said. “Prices are also good,” he said.  

The 10-year Prime Minister Agriculture Modernisation Project, launched in 2016-17, had envisioned adopting modern farm techniques to boost productivity and making the country self-reliant in food.  Under the project, the government had identified Rupandehi as an area to be developed as a fishery zone, while Bara was selected as a fishery super zone.  The customs office record shows that the country imported 206 tonnes of boneless fish from Thailand and Vietnam in the first nine months of current fiscal. Import was 240 tonnes during the same period last fiscal year.  

However, imports of dry fish have increased three fold as it is a source of nutrition to make animal feed. The country imported 103 tonnes of dry fish in the first

nine months as compared to 32 tonnes in same time period last year. Quarantine officials said that the domestic feed industry has been importing dry fish at a large volume to produce animal feed.

Apart from fish, import of buffalo meat from India and Thailand has also decreased. The country imported 29 tonnes of buffalo meat in the first nine months of current fiscal year from the Birgunj customs point as compared to 80 tonnes in the same period last fiscal year.

The import of buffalo meat and fish has declined due to mandatory provision of the Indian quarantine office to get approval letter to export healthy meat.

The Animal Health and Livestock Service Act 1999 and regulation of 2000 have been implemented strictly and that may have decreased export of meat from India, Yadav said.