FBA issue 32: May / June 2010
A brighter day dawning for Philippine aquaculture
by Gemma C. DELMO
Aquaculture usually enjoys the highest growth rate in Philippine agriculture but last year, due to damage caused by destructive typhoons, the industry only posted an increment of 2.89% or 2.47 million tonnes as against 8.71% in 2008. However, it is hoped that a series of factors, both foreign and domestic will not only let the country's aquaculture regain its traction but prosper more than ever before.
Notwithstanding its slight increase, the sector still maintained its good performance as the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) reported better water quality and lesser mortality, particularly among brackish water species in Pampanga, Tarlac and Antique. BAS also cited good market demand, proper pond management, good quality tiger prawn and crablets as well as usage of commercial feeds in Lanao del Norte and Misamis Occidental.
Meanwhile, bigger mature sizes for freshwater species and better availability of capital to improve operations were reported in Maguindanao, which also contributed to growth. For seaweeds, favourable weather conditions and availability of locally produced planting materials from the Bureau of Fisheries and Agricultural Resources (BFAR) encouraged seaweed farmers in Palawan, Camarines Norte and Tawi-Tawi, as the area being cultivated for seaweed expanded due to high demand throughout the year. 
Recovery expected
Looking ahead, BFAR director Malcolm Sarmiento is confident that aquaculture will spearhead growth for Philippine fisheries this year. Provided that no destructive typhoons occur, the sector should resume its near double-digit growth rate.
Indeed, the department of agriculture has set its hopes high for aquaculture. Realizing its enormous potential, the agency allocated PHP1 billion (US$21.9 million) in 2010 as part of its plan to develop the industry's economic prospects. Further, BFAR and the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre (SEAFDEC), along with other foreign agencies and non-government organizations will carry out aquaculture projects in Visayas and Mindanao.
The projects will implement new technologies for mud crab and grouper production, as well as new freshwater management techniques in the towns of Dumrao in Capiz and in the provinces of Misamis Occidental and Northern Samar.  According to SEAFDEC director Dr. Joebert Toledo, these projects will also involve building an aquamarine park which includes constructing fish cages and multi-hatchery of different species with BFAR and SEAFDEC providing research, technology generation, training, information and aquatic stock enhancement under international concerns.
US, Thai agribusiness invests
The industry has more reasons to rejoice. Thailand's largest agribusiness group, Charoen Pokphand Foods (CP), is investing PHP2.36 billion  (US$51.6 million) for aquafeed production in Capas, Tarlac province. The facility, which will be completed by January 2011, is located on an eight to ten-hectare area along the town's national highway and will have an annual ouptout capacity of 114,000 tonnes.  CP also plans to set up a shrimp feed mill in Cebu with a production capacity of 30,000 tonnes a year. Trade players say these investments are perceived to boost the tremendous potential of aquatic production in the country and will go a long way towards reviving its once thriving shrimp industry.
Along with CP a series of trade missions made by the US to the country late last year, two American companies have pledged major aquaculture investments. Verdant Ocean and Novick Industries is set to pour US$3 million and US$15 million respectively for aquaculture and seafood business this year. Huge investments from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are also set to be undertaken no later than mid 2010.
Barring abnormal weather patterns and other problems, Sarmiento said aquaculture is geared to regain its position as the stellar performer of Philippine agribusiness by the end of 2010.
Mariculture, AFTA and organic aquaculture
Given aquaculture's rising importance in Philippine protein lines, it is not surprising to find several government programs promoting it. At this time, statistics show that 45.6% of the country's fish production came from aquaculture. Indeed, the dwindling wild catch has prompted the government to delve into mariculture or sea farming.
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