LAHORE - The Lahore fish wholesale market is supplying around 100-120 tonnes of fish daily all over the country during winter season. This is the largest market of freshwater fish in Pakistan that exports it to more than 15 countries regularly, including EU, African and Middle Eastern countries.

“The local consumption is three times higher as compared to other seasons of the year,” president of Fish Market Association Yasin Butt told The Nation. He said that freshwater fish is supplied mainly from the farms of South Punjab’s cities of DG Khan, Multan, Muzaffar Garh, Kot Addu, Mandi Bahauddin and Alipur Chattha.

He said that the total export potential of seafood has been estimated to be about $1 billion. Presently, the demand of freshwater fish is very high in foreign countries while the present Pakistan fish exports account for only 0.25 per cent of world exports. Pakistan’s fisheries sector can yield even higher export earnings if the high potential area of aquaculture is included, he observed.

The country’s seafood export during Oct 2011 surged to $38.050 million by $23.29 percent or $7.188 million as compared to the export of fisheries products of $30.862 million in Oct 2010. On a monthly basis, the country’s export of aquatic products mounted by 40.68 percent or $11.002 million in Oct 2011 as compared to the seafood export of $27.048 million in Sept 2011, he quoted the statistics. He said that the most fish farmers stocked their ponds with indigenous species such as Catla, Rohu, Mrigal, Common carp and Mahasheer.

He said that inland fishing is practiced on almost all the rivers and lakes in the country.

The main fishing centers are: Manchar lake, Kairi (Keenjhar) lake, reservoirs of Mangla and Tarbela dams, River Indus at Sukkur, Kotri and Thatta. He said that Karachi Fish Harbour handles about 90 percent of fish and seafood catch in Pakistan and 95 percent of fish and seafood exports from Korangi Fish Harbour.

According to him, fishery plays an important role in the national economy. It provides employment to about 300,000 fishermen directly. In addition, another 400,000 people are employed in ancillary industries. The fisheries sector provides jobs for about 1 percent of the country’s labour force. It contributes only 0.3 per cent to overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 1.3 percent to agricultural GDP and less than 1 percent to national employment.

Discussing the issues of the fish market with The Nation, he urged the govt to shift the fish market to an open place, as they cannot work in the narrow and dark street.

In 1947, there were only 9 members of the wholesale fish market and now we are 109 members. But we have not been provided a spacious area despite the fact that the business has grown manifold, he argued. He added that there is always rush of people, causing problems for traders to run the business smoothly as the unhygienic conditions play havoc with the visitors of the market. He claimed that the govt never paid heed to the problems.

He said that the fish markets do their business under the patron of the government in every city, where city district governments support the fish dealers at every level. There is no proper arrangement to dispose off the waste on part of the city district govt, and as of now it is done by us here. On the other hand the government takes responsibility of cleanliness in other markets and slaughter houses.

To another question, he said that with winter at its peak, the demand for fish in provincial capital has gone up manifold despite a significant rise in prices of different varieties of the rich source of protein. Fish consumption multiplies in winter, which is evident from a dramatic surge in sales during the cold weather, he said. The price of fish has risen considerably despite increased production this year. The price of fish ranges between Rs 150 to Rs 450 per kg, depending upon the size and type. He said that the fish market works by a simple logic: fish of larger size is sold more expensively while fish of smaller size is sold cheaper. The varieties popular in the market are rohu, mul and, dola.

He claimed that the increase in all other forms of meat is the reason behind the jump in fish price. He said though the production of fish has increased around 20-30 percent but the demand is still high.