In recent years, exotic catfish, popularly known as pangus, has become a poor man’s fish, as its price has halved from what it was a decade earlier. Pangus farmers in Bangladesh tried to cope with the situation and not go out of business, by increasing per-unit area production and cutting farm management costs. There were also pollution threats from the excessive use of supplemental feeding and excreta coming from high-density farming.
The USAID Poverty Reduction by Increasing the Competitiveness of Enterprise project aquaculture team arranged meetings with leading pangus farmers in the Bhaluka-Trisal Region of Mymensingh District during August and September 2008 and reached an agreement to work with the 60-member Trisal Fish Farmers-Business Society. The main constraints identified were low price, eutrification (excess energy in water), inbreeding, and low-quality feed.
The project initially provided in-house counseling on the animal protein supply situation due to bird flu, which was expected to lead to an increased demand for fish. A consultant was assigned to improve farming techniques and introduce plankton-feeding carp species to control excessive growth of algae.
The timely decision to stock fish for the winter crop and to incorporate carp with pangus paid off. Pollution was considerably controlled by the carp, which grazed on living zooplankton algae and non-living suspended solids. Combined production of carp and pangus increased fish biomass by 30 to 50 percent among farmers who took part in the 2008 winter crop, which was harvested in March 2009. As forecast, because of bird flu, pangus price increased 45 to 60 percent from 2008, so that farmers’ incomes rose from increased quantity and higher prices of fish. Excess carp produced with pangus fetched a price of more than 105 Bangladeshi taka/kilogram, while pangus sold at around 75 taka/kilogram.
Abul Kalam achieved a yield of 77 tons of pangus, plus 11.6 tons of carp, in one of his ponds. Zainul Abedin recorded combined production of 77 tons/hectare. These are record yields in Bangladesh and more than double those obtained in 2005.
The success of the fish winter crop created great interest among the society’s farmers, and the total farming areas in 2009 have increased achieving record yields of 70-80 tons per hectare. In addition to technical assistance, PRICE facilitated a visit by a German buyer and linked the group to processing plants that were exploring the possibility of exporting pangus fillet. With this initiative, the project seeks to contribute to food security and increased incomes among the rural population of Bangladesh.