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Trout farming — a lucrative business

By Abdul Hassan & Shaukat Hayat Saddozai

TROUT fish farming is an important natural and potential source of income of the farmers of Northern Areas (NAs). Nature has bestowed the NAs with large cold water resources with a variety of habitats that are best suited for trout farming.

Two species of exotic trout are brown trout (Salmo trutta) and rainbow (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Trout is sold for Rs300 per kg in the NAs and Rs500 per kg in the valleys of Swat.

A research was undertaken to identify the problems faced by the commercial trout farmers and to determine their profitability and suggest policy measures for the development of commercial farming.

The study was conducted in the NAs where trout farming was carried on commercial basis. Five fish farm areas were selected for the study (four farms of the private sector and one public sector’s). The farmers were interviewed through a comprehensive schedule.

According to the respondents, rainbow trout was the best specie for farming with the growing season of two years.

An abundant supply of clean and cold water was the primary requirement for trout culture. Adequate year-round supply is needed for the expansion of trout culture. The water should be clean not turbid. The quantity of water depended on the water quality, farming system and culture techniques.

Land site was the key factor for fish farming where ponds and hatchery were to be constructed. The soil should retain water and be suitable for concrete construction. The most important factor was the quality and quantity of water available to the site, oxygen demand, carbon dioxide, ammonia, suspended solids, and the P.H and temperature assessment on any aquaculture facility.

In the study area, all the farmers reported that they had the ability to handle water quality problem. Water temperature was suitable all the year round for trout raising. They had continuous source of clean and quality water. Pipes were sufficient in size for quick draining and easy filling. Enough water was available to fill the ponds and replace the losses. Farmers owned suitable land with good source of high quality water. One farmer reported that he had two channels, one from the spring and the other from a canal which helped him in managing water supply.

The Trout Research and Multiplication Centre (TRMC), a research unit of the Karakoram Agricultural Research Institute (KARINA) of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) and one private farmer respondent raised their own eggs, fry or fingerlings. No local dealer was available for providing eggs, fry fingerlings. Only TRMC was the reliable source for providing fingerlings.

One farmer had earthen ponds where there were no attacks of any disease. Other ponds of the sample respondents were made of concrete. All ponds were of the rectangle shape with good water circulation.

In the study area, no reliable source of feed was available at a reasonable cost. All farmers had good and easy pond access for feeding. All farmers practiced hand feeding. Variable size of pellet was fed to trout made by sample respondents on their own choice. Farmers had no equipment for storing the feed except the TRMC that had some required equipments for trout fish culture.

The TRMC supplied early fry of average size 3mm and weight one gram from mid February to mid March at the rate of Rs2/fry while a fry of 5gm was supplied at the rate of Rs3 from mid March to April.

Trout was also sold to the consumers at the rate of Rs300kg except during the breeding season from December to February.

Road access and distance of the customers need great consideration when choosing a site. The farmers stated that the area had the potential to build a number of ponds/raceways if opportunity was provided and markets established.

Rainbow trout was widely accepted as food fish of high quality. The demand for trout prompted many respondents to start fish farming in the study area. However, due to the absence of any market in the area, the farmers could not benefit from it.

The respondents complained that no dependable services were available for the diagnosis of diseases. There was no source for the supply of drugs and chemicals. The area people were not aware of reproductive biology of fish.

All the sample respondents stated that dependable labour was available at the affordable wages.

The educational and technical services provided by the government NGOs to the area farmers needed improvement for developing the fish culture.

According to respondents, the profit potential of fish farming was higher than that of other potential investment. The expected profit was adequate to compensate labour, management and risk. Fish was the best alternative for land use.

So far, there was no real financial analysis of the economics of trout production in Northern Areas. Based on the data collected from the TRMC and farmers’ ponds, some preliminary calculations were made.

Applying the data, the total costs including the capital costs and consumption allowances gave excellent results with a cost of about Rs178 to produce one kg of trout, which was sold for Rs310 per kg. Costs vary with the level of production, whereas fixed costs were not affected by it. Variable costs included the cost of inputs such as pond preparation, fry/fingerlings, feed, electricity, tools, materials and the cost for manpower/labour.

Salary, depreciation of assets (excluding land cost), cost of maintenance, telephone/communications and travelling costs were included in the fixed costs.

The analysis assessed a profit of Rs132kg of fish, which gave a rate of return on initial cost of 53 per cent, and the rate of return on operating cost of 76 per cent.

The demand for trout exists all over Pakistan. The present domestic trout market was limited to certain hotels, restaurants and also to the affluent.

The following recommendations can be made on the basis of field data analysis and observations for promoting trout farming.

* Provision of training for interested farmers/entrepreneurs.

* Provision of technical services and support to private entrepreneurs.

* Establishing a “survey team” to identify suitable farm sites.

* Assure the availability of quality feed in the market.

* Ensure the management of marketing system.

* Priority to assist farmers in the private sector for the development of commercial trout farming in the Northern Areas. The government should invest in fish hatcheries and fish feed plants. However, such infrastructures should eventually be taken over by the private sector.

* Research for the development of trout fish was the need of the time.

* Research and development institutions should focus on conducting studies aimed at improving native stocks through genetic selection and genetic engineering.

Source: The DAWN;

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