By Fakhar Alam
PESHAWAR, Feb 14 (APP):Blessed with various ecological zones and relatively cold climate, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has a huge potential to produce export quality fish meat while nurturing the rare species of trout in widespread farms to generate substantial revenue after capturing significant share in domestic and international markets.
To fully capitalize on favorable climate conditions coupled with abundance of cold water reservoirs– a key habitat for trout fish, the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is establishing 287 trout fish farms mostly in Malakand and Hazara divisions to help promote healthy diet habit among masses besides bolstering fish exports to Afghanistan, Central Asian Republics (CARs), Gulf and others international markets.
“These farms are being established under a mega project, ‘development of water fisheries in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,’ costing Rs1286.914 million in different districts mostly in Malakand and Hazara divisions due to its favourable and cold climate and abundance of water reservoirs,” said Muhammad Zubair, Deputy Director, Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Department while talking to APP.
He said the federal government would contribute Rs514.766 million while the KP government would inject Rs772.148 million in the project to be completed by 2023.
The five-years project was launched in 2018-19 under the Prime Minister Emergency Agriculture Programme costing about Rs 309.7 billion for effective utilization of land and water resources, promotion of trout farming in private sector, undertaking programmes for fish seed production and replenishment of public water bodies through fish stocking.
Under the project, he said, 287 trout farms were being established with the help of the private sector on a 50:50 cost share basis with an estimated cost of Rs. 524.349 million, adding, about 50 percent cost would be borne by beneficiaries and remaining by the government.
Muhammad Zubair said proposals for 91 feasible sites were already submitted to Director General, Water Management for construction of trout farms in different districts of KP. “Applications from interested parties for establishment of trout farms on 50:50 cost sharing basis have been invited and survey for selection of feasible sites completed.”
Under the project, Rs .150 million would be spent on establishment of a cold water fisheries’ training and research centre in Swat where farmers and students would be provided training on conservation, production, breeding and marketing of trout farming, he said adding, contract for setting up cold water fisheries training and research centre had already been awarded.
The government would construct a model trout hatchery at Mansehra with an estimated cost Rs 88.284 million from where small fish stock would be provided to others hatcheries to the entire Hazara division and others districts of KP at affordable prices.
The site for establishment of a model trout hatchery at Siran Valley in Mansehra was selected, land was acquired and construction work was started.
“Most of trout hatcheries constructed in the past require renovation and up-gradation to enhance its production’s capacity,” he said adding, “Rs144.517 million would be spent on rehabilitation and up-gradation of existing farms,” he said.
He informed that construction work on renovation and up-gradation of Dubair hatchery in Lower Kohistan district, washed away during the 2020 flood, would be started.
He said high bread eye-ova (trout fish seed) would be imported and handed over to farmers and fish growers for breeding for which Rs100 million would be spent.
Besides purchase of maintenance and equipment with allocation of Rs .121 million, he said, interest free loans would be provided to farmers for establishment of feed mills, processing plant and cold storage with an estimated cost of Rs 40 million besides utilization of Rs 29.274 million on provision of seeds and others services and Rs 67.690 million for recruitment of staff.
“The beneficiaries will take loans from commercial banks and their interest will be paid by the project,” he said adding, KP is currently producing over 350 metric tons trout per year which would be taken to 645 metric tons by the year 2023.
Regarding fish seed production, he informed that current production was 1.4 metric and by 2023 it would be taken to 2.5 metric that help KP to be a land of fish farming.
Muhammad Zubair said merged areas of KP especially Kurram, Tirah valley in Khyber and North Waziristan districts were the most suitable for trout farming and 13 trout farms would be setup only in Kurram.
Manzoorul Haq, former Ambassador of Pakistan said fish meat consumption in our province was low as compared to other meat products due to its relatively high prices and construction of these new trout farms and hatcheries which would help increase fish consumption besides bolstering the country’s exports.
He said Pakistani trout was being preferred in gulf and other international markets due its quality meat and volume of trade with CARs, Afghanistan and Gulf would significantly increase following operationalization of Gwadar Port.
Mohibullah Khan, Provincial Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Department said increasing fish production was a cornerstone of PTI Government Agriculture and Fisheries Policy 2018-25, focusing on building of new model hatcheries, rehabilitation of existing trout and carp hatcheries and establishment of model trout farms in the province including merged areas.
Under the Prime Minister Emergency Agriculture Programme worth Rs 309. 7 billion, he said, priority was being given on enhancing fish production through replenishment of fish resources in natural water bodies through quality breeds, aquatic research, conservation programme, co-operative fishing besides introduction of new and fast growing fish varieties.
He said 200 new model fish farms were established by the PTI Government in the province and efforts were underway to increase it to 600 by 2023.
“The services of the Fisheries Department have been expanded to merged tribal districts where model trout fish farms and hatcheries would be established.” He said the KP Government was facilitating the private sector by providing fish seeds besides professional training to fish farmers.
The Minister said Rs.85 billion would be spent on development of agriculture, livestock and fisheries during the five year tenure of PTI government, adding, under supervision of Director General Fisheries, special teams were constituted for taking prompt action against illegal hunting, sale and transportation of fish in the province.