Towards domestic abundance of wet fish

Finally, Bhutan will be self-sufficient in terms of wet fish, one of the highly traded foods across the globe. Come 2018, Bhutanese families around the country would be enjoying the more readily available home-produced wet fish, not necessarily having to depend on the wet fish imported from elsewhere. This is because the department of livestock (DoL) under ministry of agriculture and forests (MoAF) projects to produce and make available in the market a hefty 750 MT of wet fish.

In fact, in the last couple of months, the production has soared drastically from the initial 100 MT to 500 MT. From what they produced in the past, they have already achieved a major boost in fish production. And with their intention to keep increasing the production by manifolds, to their ultimate target of producing 750 MT, the fish production in the country will see an increase by 650 %.

However, officials in the department agree that with the ambitious target come the challenges. To achieve the target, the department will involve lot many farmers since the modality of production is that, it will be more of partnership with the farmers. “The responsibility of enabling the farmers in the Kingdom to collectively produce 750 MT of fish per annum by the year 2018 is a serious challenge.”

In addition, the targets for other livestock commodities under the department have also seen such increases. For instance, the targeted output of chicken meat has increased from the initial 909 MT to the revised target of 1200 MT. This means, the self-sufficiency of the country in terms of eggs and chicken will witness a further boost. Bhutan has already been able to meet the local demand for eggs and chicken since few years back, tantamount to saying, import of such livestock products have been ceased.

The revisions of target for the 11th Five Year Plan (FYP) for many outputs of livestock products/ fish are strongly indicative of the DoL’s efforts to support the government’s endeavor to reduce import of livestock products. This is spearheaded toward curtailing the outflow of foreign monies, especially the Indian Rupee (INR).

The report by the department stated that it is seriously needed to curtail import of fish which is attributed to be one reason for corresponding outflow of the INR.  Hence, boosting the local production to discourage the import is expected to immensely contribute in retaining the INR within the country, thus providing some respite for INR crisis.

“By 2018, Bhutanese farmers must be enabled to produce a total of 500 MT of fish per annum,” the report states. Further, it goes on to say that while it is seemingly a daunting task for a landlocked country with a mountainous terrain, the report challenged that this is not an entirely impossible task. “What is called for is a combination of new ideas and new methods to execute old ideas.”

Hence, the department has already chalked out plan and identified activities for achieving their target. They propose to start with encouraging adoption and scaling up of fish farming ventures in addition to providing technological interventions which is expected to enhance the fish productivity.

The department will pursue fish production through what they call, “Culture Based Capture Fisheries” (CBCF) in community water bodies or common access water bodies. The farmers’ institution building, breed enhancement and diversification, Public-Private-Partnerships to produce live inputs, especially stunted fingerlings; and skills dissemination and capacity building will be seriously pursued. Hence, with all such plan in place, the department sees no reason why they cannot achieve their target.

During the 11th FYP, one of the important activities of the DoL has been the fishery centre in Haa to promote and support the culture of trout (Rainbow trout).

As of today, there are few commercial sized fish farms in some dzongkhags contributing to fish self- sufficiency in the country which is set up on government leased land. Dzongkhags like Gelephug, Sarpang, Tsirang, Samtse and Samdrup Jongkhar are identified as a potential fish producing areas.

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