By Akhtar M. Nikzad-KABUL: Next year the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) will start a fish breeding program at Band-e Qargha to promote pisciculture in the country. After several decades of war, this is the first time that MAIL initiates fish breeding program in the country.
The fish breeding farm in Band-e Qargha was established in 1977 but it was damaged due to several decades of violence. Now the farm has been rehabilitated and recently nurtured more than two million fingerlings that were brought from Iran and France.
According to MAIL, Afghanistan annually needs around 120 metric tons of fish-meat but only produce around 30 percent of the requirement through private fishing farms. Pakistan is the largest fish exporter to Afghanistan. Whereas, Afghanistan is an agricultural country and has appropriate environment for fish hatching, expansion of fish farms in the near future can make the country self- sufficient in this field.
Chief of the Livestock Department in MAIL, Mohammad Arif Aman, said that pisciculture is promoting in the country as in the last 14 years more than 350 private fish farms have been established in different parts of the country and provide fish-meat to the markets.
He said that in the recent years, Band-e Qargha Farm nurtured around two million fingerlings and distributed them free of cost to the private fish farms, as well as dropped thousands of fingerlings into Panjshir, Parwan and Paghman rivers.
He said the spawns was brought from Iran and France and nurtured in the Band-e Qargha farm. “We started the professional methods of nurturing the fingerlings in the farm. The fish that are maintained in the farm are the species of cool water and warm water. This year we do not have any plan to distribute fish among the private farms but we want to make a mother stock in the farm to take spawns. The stock will help us in the coming years to stop purchasing the fingerlings from foreign countries,” he explained. He maintained that the ministry has nurtured around 4,000 fishes in the mother stocks. After the breeding the ministry will distribute the fingerlings to the private’s farm and drop some of them in the rivers for promotion of fishery.
Aman went on to say that the MAIL is conducting a research about nurturing of carp (freshwater fish) to know whether it is possible to hatch such species of fish in the farm. Currently, there are 1,200 carp fish in the pond. This type of fish has delicious meat and produce adequate meat than other species. The farm is supported by ordinary budget of the government.
“We import the fish food from foreign countries as well as we produce some feed according to the formula in our farm. We do not provide the produced food to the private farms but we train them how to prepare it, economically,” he elaborated.
During winter season the one kilogram of fish meat is sold at 200 up to 350 Afghani. People are interested to eat fish during the winter but majority of people cannot buy the fish meat due to its high cost. Landlocked Afghanistan currently needs about 120,000 tons of the marine products, but poor production is compelling traders to import supplies from Pakistan and Iran.
Gul Mohammad, a fishmonger in Qala-i-Najara, said that they import fish from Pakistan because Afghanistan cannot meet the needs. Pakistan is the only country that seized the markets in the Afghanistan. “Our own fish is fresh, healthy and tasty, but our people are attracted to Pakistani fish, while its meat is comparable by no means,” he shared his experience. One kilo Afghani fish cost Afs350 while the Pakistani farm fish costs between Afs180 and 250, a cheaper price but low quality and insipid, he added.
Sabir, a fish dealer in Daronta, said that he sells local freshwater fish as well as import fish from Pakistan because the domestic farms in Afghanistan cannot produce enough fish to meet the demand side.
Another dealer in Kabul, Mohammad Jawad Faizi, said that the river fish is on the verge of extinction because local fishermen use electricity to catch fish, a method that endangers all fish species.
Chief of the Livestock Department said that using electricity to catch fish had been banned and those who try to use electronic devices will be punished by relevant organizations.
“It is right that some people use electronic devices for hunting fish. We directed the relevant organizations to look after the dams, ponds and rivers where fishes lay spawns. Those who commit such crime will be punished. We request fishermen to use hook for hunting fish,” said Mohammad Arif.
Afghanistan has good water resources for nurturing fish and by establishment of the fish farms the incomes of the farmers would increase and will pave the ground for a large trade in the country. Economists believe that if the government supports standard fish farms in different parts of the country, farmers would have an active role in its promotion and they would have good income.