Nov 30 - Dec 06, 2009

Pakistan's fish and seafood industry including ancillary industries has worth US$1.2 billion. More than one million people rely directly or indirectly on this industry for income generation.

Pakistanis eat less than 2.5kg of fish per year, one of the lowest per capita consumption in the world. The average consumption per year per capita is around 15kg.

The Competitiveness Support Fund (CSF) has been involved in improving the fishery sector in Pakistan because this industry has a competitive advantage and potential to grow, said Arthur Bayhan, CEO CSF.

CSF, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has carried out an action plan for fish quality and value adding at Karachi Fish Harbor (KFH) by identifying the obstacles and problems that the harbor faces.

The action plan identified a number of obstacles, foremost of which is that the industry is under threat from two sides. One is over fishing, which reduces the resource base and hence the yields. The other is poor quality control, which means that the value of the catch is not being maximized and much is being wasted.

The CSF action plan has made a number of recommendations. These include the re-organization of the Management Structure of KFH aimed at resolving the positions of the Fishermen's Cooperative Society and the auctioneers ("moles") and a proposal to contract out the management via a company structure.

This action plan also recommends the physical rehabilitation of the infrastructure, better water supply, more ice making, rationalising the number of boats in the harbor, improving the sewage system, and up-grading auction halls. The outcome of these recommendations would see an increase in the annual value of the catch of US$35 million resulting from improved quality and better market prices. It will also help reduce trash fish used for animal feed at loss-making prices.

Furthermore, it would restore a loss of US$60 million (30% of value of exports) exports to Europe annually by restoring EU listings for fish processors.

These recommendations have received great support from the federal and Sindh governments including Shaukat Tarin, Federal Minister of Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister of State for Finance and Economic Affairs and Chairperson of the CSF, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Sindh Chief Minister, and Zahid Ali Bhurgari, Minister of Fisheries, Sindh as key measures to improve the Karachi Fish Harbor, which plays ać crucial role for export of the seafood from Pakistan.

Following recommendations made by CSF, a new KFH board of directors has been constituted that includes relevant stakeholders from the private sector. In addition, some 50 stainless steel hand pallet trucks have been introduced along with plastic pallets of fish and related products from the jetty to the auction hall. Plastic crates have been provided to handle fish and fish products at jetties and the auction hall. Provision of potable water has been ensured for the cleaning of jetties and auction halls.

Fumigation has been carried out in the auction halls and the same is being done on the boats. Similarly, a proper record is being maintained of all outgoing boats. Modified boats are being berthed in front of K-I and K-II jetties and an organoleptic record is being kept. Abandoned boats have been removed from the channel. Section 144, under the Pakistan Penal Code, has been imposed on paan chewing, spitting, smoking etc.

89 boats including 71 large boats and 18 small ones have been upgraded or repaired through financing by the Sindh government. On the other hand, as many as 28 boats, 16 large and 12 small have been upgraded through private financing. A contract has been given to a private sector consultancy company to develop a master plan for the harbor.

In close collaboration with the Sindh Ministry of Fisheries, CSF has developed a road map on how to remove further obstacles and improve the fish quality and adding value for export. The road map developed by CSF recommends contracting out of KFH in respect of a management company to be brought in to specifically take over and manage the operations and assets in the harbor. It also calls for identifying potential management companies to participate in the 'Tendering' procedure.

CSF has further carried out an action plan on the Korangi Fish Harbor and proposed that it be declared a Special Economic Zone for sea food processing industry. It further recommends that a specialized international company be brought in to manage fishing at the harbor and set up a warehouse for seafood catch to be connected with a prospective warehouse in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic. Transfer of the harbor's ownership from the federal to the provincial government has also been suggested.

Federal finance minister has assured that he would take up the matter with the federal cabinet as well as with the Sindh government for the implementation of these recommendations.

CSF has carried out works at the Pasni, Gwadar, and Keti Bandar ports. In another initiative, the Competitiveness Support Fund, in collaboration with the Sindh Government, has introduced an innovation in the cultivation of strawberries in Pakistan.

CSF has imported two new varieties of saplings i.e. 'Sweet Charlie' and 'Festival'. These have been imported for the first time from the United States and have already been planted in district Khairpur in Sindh. Neither variety has been grown in Pakistan before. The saplings have been planted over an area of one acre and are expected to bear fruits from late January to March. If successful, the initial project is likely to generate huge interest and potential for export of the fruit in the years to come.

"There are a number of countries, including some in the Gulf, Central Asia, and Russia, which import strawberries in the winter months. However, Pakistan will be able to target these markets with fresh fruit if the current project is successful," said Arthur Bayhan.

Over the past decade, the fruit has gained phenomenal popularity in the country, and is now grown abundantly between February and April for domestic consumption. Some of the varieties grown in Pakistan are Chandelier and Corona. These are mostly sour and small.