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Pangas stake on steady decline

Mehedi Al Amin
15 Mar 2023 00:00:00 | Update: 15 Mar 2023 00:02:37
Pangas stake on steady decline

Pangas, one of the prime sources of protein for the marginalised and poor, is losing its foothold on consumers’ food plates, evident by the species’ declining stake in Bangladesh’s total fish production.

Department of Fisheries data show that Pangas production in the country has dropped by 1.04 lakh tonnes in the last five years. The species’ contribution in total production dipped to 10.02 per cent or 4.06 lakh tonnes in FY22, compared to 14.59 per cent or 5.10 lakh tonnes in FY17.

This reduction has been gradual, as Pangas had occupied 12.52 per cent of total fish production in FY18, 12.31 per cent in FY19, 10.57 per cent in FY20 and 10.21 per cent in FY21.

Total inland fish production was 40.53 lakh tonnes in FY22, which is over 85 per cent of total fish production including marine capture. Bangladesh produced 47.59 lakh tonnes of fish, including marine species the same year.

Rui is now at the top position in total fish production. Besides, a steady but increasing Tilapia production is playing its role to fill the gap created due to the declining stake of Pangas.

According to the Department of Fisheries, Rui production rose by 1.45 lakh tonnes to over 4.62 lakh tonnes in FY22, compared to 3.17 lakh tonnes in FY17. This fish had occupied 10.60 per cent of total fish production in FY17, which rose to 11.41 per cent in FY22.

Tilapia production increased to 4.07 lakh tonnes in FY22, from 3.70 lakh tonnes in FY17. Bangladesh produced around 3.92 lakh tonnes Tilapia in FY21, 3.71 lakh tonnes in FY20, 3.91 tonnes in FY19 and 3.85 lakh tonnes in FY18.

Between FY17 and FY22, Tilapia production increased by around 37,000 tonnes.

On the issue, Department of Fisheries Director (Inland) Shamim Ara Begum said, “Market prices of fish is the key factor behind the declining stake of Pangas. Farmers can yield high profits in a shorter period if they culture Rui instead of Pangas.

“We try to promote every fish species equally. But farmers’ choice makes the difference.”

Farmers losing interest in Pangas

Industry insiders say farmers rushed to farm Pangas a decade ago when the species was the most profitable. Now-a-days, Rui and Tilapia have overtaken Pangas in terms of profitability. As a result, farmers are shifting to farming these two species instead of Pangas.

The Business Post spoke to several farmers who were farming Pangas, but later recently switched to Rui and/or Tilapia.

Shafikul Islam, a farmer of Srinagar Upazila in Munshiganj is cultivating Rui and Tilapia in a one acre pond. He used to Pangas farming three years back, now cultivating only Rui and Tilapia.

Sharing his experience, Shafikul said, “One sack of oil cake and wheat bran each is needed in my pond to feed 15 maunds of Tilapia and Rui fries for seven days. When I cultivated Pangas, it was double the requirement.

“Pangas need more food, but the fish is sold at a lower price in the market. On the other hand, both Rui and Tilapia intake a lower amount of food compared to Pangas, but have a higher market value.”

“I failed to harvest the expected size of Pangas despite giving them more food,” he added.

Pangas is no longer cost effective

Mohammad Asgaf-ud-Doulah, a senior scientific officer of Bangladesh Fish Research Institute (BFRI), is an expert on the feed and weight ratio of fish and the quality of fish feed.

He explained, “Pangas can give 1Kg meat if it takes 2 Kg feed, Tilapia can give 1 Kg meat if it takes 1.5 Kg feed and Rui can give 1 Kg meat if it takes 1 Kg-1.5 Kg of fish feed.”

“A set of Rui varieties invented by the BFRI, including Sonali Rui, can give higher yield than other fishes. So, calculating the cost-benefit ratio, farmers are choosing Rui instead of Pangas,” said Dr Anuradha Bhadra, Chief Scientific Officer and Head of Freshwater Station, Mymensingh.

On a recent visit to several kitchen markets in Dhaka, traders were seen selling per Kg of Pangas for Tk 160 – Tk 200, Tilapia for at Tk 180 – Tk 200, and Rui for Tk 260 – Tk 320.

Lack of export opportunities

FH Ansarey, president ACI Agribusinesses – one of the biggest conglomerates in the agro sector, said, “Tilapia has a muddy smell in its meat. This is why this variety cannot be exported to markets in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

“The white meat of Pangas has a huge demand in the international market, but the Pangas cultivated in Bangladesh has yellow meat. Both of these species are fully dependent on the domestic market as there is no scope for exports.”

He added that due to a lack of export opportunity and less return on investments, farmers are avoiding Pangas farming.

Pangas heavily dependent on pond farming

Pangas farming is heavily dependent on ponds. Around 3.96 lakh tonnes or 97 per cent Pangas are produced in ponds. Among the rest, 1,269 tonnes came from rivers, 185 tonnes from beels, 8,729 tonnes from floodplains, 387 tonnes from pen culture in FY22.

Meanwhile, 66 per cent of Rui comes from pond fisheries, while the rest are coming from other open water bodies such as floodplains, rivers and beels. These factors are contributing to the increase of Rui production.

Consumers in trouble

With the reducing stake, Pangas is no longer the most available fish in the market. Its price has gone up due to decreasing production, which is causing protein to become even more costly for the lower and middle class people.

Mominul Islam, a consumer from the middle class and a private job holder, said, “Price of per Kg Pangas has gone up by Tk 80 and reached TK 180 in recent times, compared to Tk 110 six months ago.

“How can we meet our protein demand if the cheapest fish no longer remains the cheapest?”

According to the Department of Fisheries, farmers produced 4.02 lakh tonnes Pangas in FY21, 4.05 lakh tonnes in FY20, 4.58 lakh tonnes in FY19 and 4.53 lakh tonnes in FY18.