Rice and fish | Philstar.com

There was this story of a schoolgirl whose baon each school day was a cup of rice sprinkled with patis or fish sauce. It was all her parents could afford, according to the social media story.

The basic Filipino diet consists of rice and fish. Fish and fish products provide the bulk of protein to more than half of all Filipinos when they eat.

Galunggong or scad was the poor man’s fish when I was growing up. But today, the poor can no longer afford galunggong. It is now imported.

Today, the most affordable fish are bangus and tilapia because they are aquaculture products. Bangus and tilapia can be purchased at P170 and P120 per kilo respectively. This is less than local and imported galunggong, which ranges from 200 to 320 pesos per kilo. Lazada lists it at P299.

“Per capita, Filipinos consume about 60 kilograms of meat protein per year. Sixty percent of that, or around 36 kilos, comes from fish, according to government data. Therefore, fish, such as bangus and tilapia, can be a real ‘lifeline’, especially for low-income families,” said Tugon Kabuhayan, an advocacy group.

But like almost everything else, we groped on the bangus like we groped rice, corn, onions, garlic, etc. We were the market leader in the bangus, with neighboring countries looking to us for technological assistance. Not anymore.

We now import our bangus fingerlings from Indonesia and Taiwan. This is because we have not continued to invest in our breeding farms. Taiwan sabalo came from Palawan. They studied breeding habits to produce fry.

Tilapia now saves the day for many families. About 12 percent of their animal protein intake comes from farmed tilapia.

We had so much promise in aquaculture. As recently as 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported that the Philippines was the 11th largest aquaculture producer in the world, contributing 1.01% to the total world production. The country is also the fourth largest producer of aquatic plants (including algae), comprising 1.48 million metric tons or 4.56 percent of total global production.

A policy brief written by a team led by economist Dr Karlo Adriano reports that the country’s aquaculture has great potential for expansion and development due to the availability of its vast resources (338,393 hectares of wetlands, 14,531 hectares of freshwater fish ponds, 239,323 hectares of brackish water ponds, 200,000 hectares of lakes, 31,000 hectares of rivers and 19,000 hectares of reservoirs).

“Proper management and use of these available production areas would easily increase aquaculture production by more than 100%,” Adriano’s guidance document said.

But we have wasted our great potential in aquaculture, as in everything the Department of Agriculture is responsible for. The sector’s local production has stagnated since 2017. The average annual growth rate of aquaculture is only 0.1% from 2017 to 2021.

“Based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), aquaculture production recorded an annual decline of -3.3%, from 2,323,000 tonnes in 2020 to 2,246,000 tonnes in 2021, at prices 2018 constants. In terms of gross domestic product (GDP), the share of fishing is minimal with an average contribution of only 1.5% from 2010 to 2020 at constant 2018 prices. Despite a minimal contribution to GDP.

While global fisheries and aquatic production are increasing rapidly, our aquaculture production is even contracting.

According to the Food and Fertilizer Technology Center (2008), Philippine aquaculture faces the following challenges: (1) Unavailability of high quality fingerlings/fingerlings, (2) High input costs, (3) Lack of post -harvest, (4) Limited access to the local and international market, (5) Food safety and quality constraints, among others.

According to the policy document, “The underdevelopment of the aquaculture sector can be attributed mainly to the lack of a value chain approach (upstream, production, middle and downstream).

“For example, a major upstream constraint is the limited supply of fingerlings or fingerlings and the high cost of inputs such as feed and fertilizer.”

Studies have shown that the main upstream bottlenecks of milkfish production in the country are the high prices of commercial formulated feeds and the insufficient local supply of fingerlings and/or fingerlings. On average, feed accounts for about 60% of the total operating costs of a typical pen or cage culture system.

“On the other hand, the country has been heavily dependent on the import of fingerlings to augment the fingerling needs of the local milkfish industry…about 1.65 billion milkfish fingerlings are needed each year based on of milkfish production in the country. In general, this can be attributed to insufficient investment in hatchery and nursery development. »

Aquaculture fishers also face limited access to credit and financial assistance. How can they invest in new technologies and modern facilities without having access to credit?

The Philippines also lags behind other countries in terms of marketing and post-harvest practices for fish products… According to the AfDB, the number of HACCP-certified aquaculture product processing establishments was still very limited …then there is the limited cold chain infrastructure…

Well… what else new? We know what our problems are, our experts have good recommendations, but the implementation of DA and BFAR is unclear. We have good aquaculture experts just as we have good rice experts. If only the decision makers would listen to them.

I visited the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center, Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC/AQD) in Iloilo a few years ago with Senator Serge Osmena III. They do a great job, which has recently included galunggong farming.

“Our spawners have been spawning continuously since December last year until February, and we now have thousands of galunggong in various stages from larvae to early juveniles in our hatchery, which we hope to further develop to market size. to prove that we can raise galunggong,” revealed SEAFDEC/AQD chief Dan Baliao in an interview on February 28 and published on the aquaasiapac.com website.

We have what it takes to be food self-sufficient. We have experts and we have natural resources. But our politicians are not focused on the national good. If only we elected better leaders… Well… we can dream.

Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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