Myanmar is endowed with rich natural resources in coastal waters, rivers and inland lakes, and re-emergence in the world of commerce in the country offers exciting opportunities to address issues of sustainability and conservation, as well as its export potential.
According to official statistics, the total production of fish and shellfish in 2013 was 4.7 million tonnes (MT), 47 percent of freshwater and 53 percent of the sea.
Just over 377,000 tonnes of seafood – just 8 percent of production – were exported this year, with a total value of USD 653 million (614.9 million euros), divided between fish ($ 378 million , 356 million euros), shrimp (USD 89 million, 83.8 million euros) and other species (in millions of USD 185 million euros 174.2).
Top ten species exported were Rohu carp, eel, tiger shrimp, live crab, Hilsa (Tenualosa ilisha), bream, pink shrimp, belt, sea dried shrimp caught and Penaeus vannamei. The main importing countries are Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and China, with lower volumes exported to Hong Kong, USA, Vietnam, UK, UAE and Australia, among others.
Most of the seafood sold in Myanmar for local consumption and a plethora of different species can be found in its colorful street markets. Seafood plays an important role in the diet, with an average consumption of 56 kg per capita; more than four times the average American citizen.
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Rohu, catla mrigal and carp are the main crops, which account for about 80 percent of the production of farmed fish. The rest consists of pangasius, tilapia, pacu, grass, common carp and silver, bighead, snakehead, catfish, bass and grouper. Fish production is promoted in the fields of rice and polyculture is very popular in the interior ponds, most of which have chicken farms, built from the shore on stilts with bamboo. Residues of these, falling directly to the lake, provides valuable nutrients for fish.
A survey in 2013 of marine capture fisheries showed a significant drop in the population, leading to foreign fishing in state waters completion in 2014. A fishing ban and defined areas “no fishing” for local fishermen also It has been established, but with little in the way of monitoring, surveillance and control, such measures are not effective.
The Myanmar Fisheries Federation (PSC) is working to persuade the government to seek international assistance to put appropriate control systems in place, and also to improve their aquaculture industry.
U Hnin Oo, senior vice president of the PSC, said the Myanmar shrimp industry has never recovered from the devastation wrought by Cyclone Nargis in 2008, and is currently struggling with the disease problems and lack of investment, technological knowledge and skilled operators .
“We see great potential for improving our fishing industry,” he said. “Currently only 20 of 125 countries in the processing plants are certified to export to the EU and most of them simply product are frozen, rather than added value. We have to increase the availability of raw materials by investing in fishing and aquaculture, which in turn encourage processors to invest in added value. This in turn will help to make the most of the opportunities offered by the recent lifting of economic sanctions. “
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“For this we need tougher legislation, international financial and technical assistance for the preservation and R & D, a strategy of robust aquaculture aligned Good aquaculture practices, new hatcheries and expertise, the new aqua feed mills and improved processing plants. It is not too much to ask, but the reward will be good, “he said.
The first ray of hope comes in the form of a USD 1.7 million (1.6 million), funded by USAID 3-year project led by the University of Arizona to help develop sustainable seafood industry infrastructure in Myanmar.
Run as a partnership between the University of Arizona, the University of Yangon and Pathein in Myanmar and the PSC, the project is also working with international partners, including DuPont, Ripplefish, Tiran Group, practical Seafood, Auburn University, Asian Institute of Technology, Relief International, Aquaculture Without Borders and several NGOs.
In 2016, Myanmar South East Asia Free Trade Area will join, so speed is important if the fishing industry is to catch Vietnamese, Thai and Malaysian partners, who have already invested heavily in their seafood industries .
“A key objective of the project is the development of a laboratory for seafood safety at the University of Yangon. It will function as a laboratory service for industry and as a training laboratory for students and processors to put in place guarantee quality export university laboratories. The project will also work directly with fishermen and farmers to improve product quality from the boat or pond, through the supply chain to the customer, “said the leader of the project, Professor Kevin Fitzsimmons.
Other important aspects are working in crab, shrimp and fish hatcheries and nurseries, farm sanitation, Business dictionary offshore aquaculture, nutrition and food technology for aquaculture restoration of mangroves and provide scholarships and internship opportunities. There will be a particular focus on eels, soft crabs, shrimp and tilapia Macrobranchium with partner companies.
Dr. Toe Nandar Tin, president of the fishing cooperative Anawa Devi and General Trading and one of the few women working at a high level in the industry, said getting the government to make a real commitment to improving infrastructure was the first major obstacle.
“We are pleased to see from the international assistance to make a difference. There is a real desire in the industry to succeed, but we can do it with help from outside,” he said.