Bangladesh’s fisheries sector is being recognized globally not only by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), but also from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). According to the Global Fisheries Report released by the FAO last July, 2018, Bangladesh is the fifth largest producer of fish in the world. Bangladesh’s recent aquaculture growth has defied predictions so much that it deserves to be called a ‘Blue Revolution’.
Fisheries sector represents one of the most productive and dynamic sectors in Bangladesh. The fisheries sector of Bangladesh is playing an increasingly significant role in the economy for the last few decades. Bangladesh has achieved remarkable progress in the fisheries sector since its independence in 1971.
This sector is contributing a very significant role in the socio-economic development and deserves potential for future development in the agrarian economy of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is blessed with vast and rich Fisheries resources. The diversified fisheries resources of the country are divided into two groups as Inland and Marine fisheries. Inland fisheries have two sub sectors as Inland capture and Inland culture fisheries. Inland capture fisheries comprise with river, beels, Sundrabans etc. On the other hand, Inland culture fisheries include pond, baor, seasonal cultured water-body, cage culture etc. The fishery sector contributes 3.57% to Bangladesh’s GDP. As per government’s figures, the total fish production in Bangladesh in 2017-18 was about 4.2 million tones. Of this, 2.4 million tones came from pond fish farming. Contrast this with pond fish production in 1983-84, it was only 1,78,000 tones. It is now estimated that the production of fish will reach 5.02 million tonnes by 2020-2021. In another interesting statistics, the total production of fish in Bangladesh has increased six folds in the last 34 years and production in ponds has increased over 12 times.
The term blue revolution refers to the remarkable emergence of aquaculture as an important and highly productive agricultural activity. Aquaculture refers to all forms of active culturing of aquatic animals and plants, occurring in marine, brackish, or fresh water. It has long been practiced in China and other places in Eastern Asia, where freshwater fish have been grown as food in managed ponds for thousands of years.
The blue revolution is being implemented to achieve economic prosperity of fishermen and fish farmers. It is also to contribute towards food and nutritional security through optimum utilization of water resources for fisheries development in a sustainable manner. In fact 56% of the fish harvested in Bangladesh are grown in ponds. IFPRI calls it ‘blue revolution’.
Objectives of Blue Revolution
Fisheries and Aquaculture comprise an important sector of food production in Bangladesh. It is an attempt to create an enabling environment for integrated development of the full potential of fisheries of the country, alone with substantially improvement in the income status of fishers and fish farmers keeping in view the sustainability, bio-security and environmental concerns.
Fish Farming in Ponds
Most of the produced in the country now are cultivated in ponds. IFPRI says, Bangladesh has set a unique precedent of fish farming in ponds.
Fish farming in ponds, however has increased rapidly in 24 districts of the country. Among them, the highest increase in Bogura, Sirajganj, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Mymensingh, Gazipur and Netrokona. Fish cultivation in ponds in those districts has increased at a rate of 10% a year. On the other hand, fish farming in ‘ghers’ or ‘enclosures’ in the south-western part of the country has decreased by 24% in the past two decades. Pond fish farming is getting popular there.
Prospects of Blue Revolution
The transformation of aquaculture is due in part to availability to new technology and improved infrastructure. But the crucial factor in transforming the fish aquaculture value chain has been domestic demand, fueled by years of sustained economic growth.
The farmed-fish market increased 25-folds in three decades, with over 90 percent of farmed fish (Shrimp excluded) consumed domestically. Rising demand and falling transportation costs contributed to growth in the domestic fish market, which in turn encouraged specialization and formation of fish production clusters.
All segments of the fish value chain have grown rapidly in response to expanding opportunities. According to a recent fish value-chain survey, the number of hatcheries, feed mills, feed dealers and fish traders more than doubled between 2004 and 2014. The number of fish farmers grew by 63 percent over this period. Moreover, efficiency increased as production per farmer and output handled per trader grew in recent decades.
Fish farmers are using more hatchery produced seed, purchasing more floating feed, applying more chemicals, hiring more labor and investing more in equipment.
Intensification has led to the diversification of upstream value chain segments, specifically feed and seed and these segments are now specifying their products to different fish species and even different characteristics within species.
Poverty and Welfare Implications
Aquaculture in Bangladesh relies primarily on ‘Pond Culture’, that is cultivation of fish in ponds, both on a small scale by households for their own consumption and on a larger commercial scale with greater use of inputs and labor for domestic market.
From 2000 to 2015, aquaculture’s share in fish production increased, rising from 30%-47% of production; the sector’s annual growth rate has been estimated at 8.6 percent for this period. Production rose from 4,98,000 tonnes in 2000 to 1.7 million tonnes in 2015.
Fish farming is more profitable than rice cultivation. Only two to three tonnes of rice grow on an acre of land while nearly 40 tonnes of fish can be produced in a pond on the some size of land.
About 18 million people in the country are now involved in fish farming and related businesses.
The sector ranks among the top three sectors contribute to poverty alleviation in the country. Nearly 23% of the working people are now somehow connected to the fisheries sector.
Bangladesh’s fish sector has proved that poverty reduction and rural development are possible without major development plans and infrastructure project’s Creative initiatives of small farmers in the village, government’s supportive policy and innovation of scientists are the key reasons behind the success.
Challenges of Blue Revolution
The analysis of the enablers and impacts of a blue revolution in Bangladesh describe quite a positive story. However, the sector also faces challenges in future growth, as the per capita consumption has reached a historic high. A critical question is whether the country’s growth in aquaculture can continue to be fueled by the domestic demand, as has been the case over the past two decades. The analysis of future increases in fish production, mostly coming from aquaculture, shows that fish production growth is likely to outpace the increases in the demand between 2015 and 2030 with a moderate decline in prices. Increases in aquaculture investment and productivity could lead to greater overall increases in production of as much as 120 percent in 2030 relative to 2015. If demand also increases rapidly, real aquaculture prices may fall by only 0.73 percent through 2030.
It is also demonstrated that poor households, currently consuming small quantities, currently consuming small quantities, will gain significantly form greater production and lower prices. However, growth in productivity require targeted investments, especially since inland capture and marine fishing face serious ecosystem constraints.
Bangladesh’s blue revolution opens up new avenue for developing countries. Bangladesh’s fishery sector has proved that poverty reduction and rural development are possible without major development plants and infrastructure projects. Bangladesh is leading the world in growing fish in ponds.
MD. ALAL UDDIN
Fisheries Scenario of Bangladesh in FAO Report
In getting the third position, Bangladesh produced a total of 10,48,242 tonnes of fish from inland water bodies in 2016, about 2.4 percent higher than 2015, according to the FAO’s fisheries and aquaculture report 2018. China topped the list with 23,18,046 tonnes, while India was second place with 14,62,063 tonnes, found the report which was mode public on July 9, 2018, Myanmar and Combodia secured fourth and fifth positions. In overall aquaculture production, Bangladesh was placed fifth in Asia by producing 22 lakh tonnes in 2016, according to the report.