Friday, April 18, 2014

Fishing sector in Nepal

Fishing sector in Nepal is growing (though not at a faster rate given the growing internal demand). Its share of GDP reached 0.62% in FY2013, up from 0.48% in FY2002. There is a huge and growing domestic demand for fish, which is taken as a substitute for meat products (even by some vegetarians I know of!). Nepal’s fish import was over NRs2.7 billion in FY2013 (about NRs1.45 billion from India and NRs1.29 billion from PRC).

With targeted and adequate support from government and development partners, fishing sector has the potential to be a good showcase for (i) import substitution, (ii) commercialization of agriculture, and (iii) source of jobs.

[Fish farm in Chanauli, Chitwan]

Currently, the government is providing some subsidies (for instance, electricity cost is half the normal rate per unit = about NRs 4 per unit), which needs to be better targeted and perhaps continued (given the fact that one of the countries from where Nepal imports fish heavily subsidizes its agriculture sector). The fish culture and research centers of the government need upgrading along with efficient operations. The fish farming sites strategically located around the country have to be connected by road network. Furthermore, there has to be better and more storage facilities.

Relevant capacity building of fish farmers would help in optimizing land utilization around fish farms (= further commercialization plus diversification of income source). Affordable access to finance and better linkages between farm-gate and wholesale/retail centers are two never ending constraints. All these basic initiatives could help Nepalese fish farmers produce better fishes and compete with relatively cheaper imported fishes.

[We enjoyed fresh fish curry during a recent trip to a fish farm in Chanauli, Chitwan. The farm is owned by one of my friends who recently quit business journalism to start commercial fish farming.]