Further expansion is hampered by lack of land for ponds and religious sentiments

Livestock: Fisheries in Samdrupjongkhar meet almost 70 percent of the freshwater fish demand in the country.

This was revealed during a presentation made to the new gups in the dzongkhag.

Fish farming was revived in Samdrupjongkhar in 2005.

Only 60 farmers had come forward to take up fish farming then. Today there are 125 fisheries and two large fishery cooperatives in 43 areas in three gewogs.

The gewogs are Langchenphu, Phuntshothang and Pemathang, which are major fish-farming zones. The gewogs meet the freshwater fish demand of the entire eastern region.

The dzongkhag’s fishery focal person, Chang Chung, said fish-farming is economically viable and profitable, and does not require much investment, explaining why the industry has been successful.

The success has not only helped the dzongkhag exceed its annual performance agreement on livestock targets, but created a major source of revenue.

The fisheries are referred to as “private banks” as the farmers can market fish throughout the year.

Some of the fishes, farmers raise are the Chinese major carp, grass carp, silver carp and catla, among others. The fish are sold for around Nu 200 per kilogramme.

The dzongkhag livestock sector distributes fingerlings at a subsidised rate ranging from Nu 0.50 to Nu 1 per fingerling. The sector also provides other free materials and equipment.

The farmers sell more than five kilogrammes of fish a day and can earn more than Nu 80,000 a year.

Some of the farmers also maintain poultry and piggeries, which can fetch them an additional Nu 30,000 a year.

One of the farmers, Mangal Dhoj Subba, said demand for the fish  is very high. Often the stock is sold out even before the farmers reach the Samdrupjongkhar market. He said the business has significantly helped them to meet their expenditures.

According to records maintained by the fishery sector, in the 11th Plan 300,000 fingerlings were supplied to farmers every year. The target was to supply 95,000 fingerlings.

More than 60 metric tonnes of fish have been produced.

Chang Chung said that while there are plans to export, local demand has been increasing every year and meeting it is a challenge.

“The plan is almost ready and will be implemented soon,” he said. “If more farmers adopt fishery they would be able to meet the demand but it is not happening.”

He added that religious sentiments and inadequate land space for fish ponds are discouraging many farmers to take up fishery.

Yangchen C Rinzin |  Samdrupjongkhar