Prices up as fish stock shortages hurt Pakistan fisheries

Published on
November 21, 2013

Stocks of fish in the Arabian Sea are at unprecedented lows, driving up seafood prices according to seafood exporters interviewed by SeafoodSource. Prices paid to fishermen are up 30 percent compared to last year according to Bachu Dewan, head of sales as Maritime Seafood, a processor and exporter supplying Middle Eastern and Asian markets from Karachi. The firm has been scrambling to get adequate quantities of crab and lobster for clients in Thailand and the U.S. while also supplying a growing client base in China. He’s recently sold a 10,000 kilogram (kg) batch of red sea bream to China at USD 1.30 a kilo. He’s selling similar sized shipments of leather jacket fish at USD 3.40 per kg and conger eel at USD 1.40 per kg.  

A shortage of fish has forced another firm, KSD International, to raise prices to fishermen are up by 40 percent to 50 percent compared to last year, according to company CEO, Dawood K Osman. Operating out of Dubai and Karachi, Osman says he’s struggling to meet demand from clients in China and the Middle East.

“We’re getting more and more demand from China but we’re worried about finding supply for them,” said Osman, who fishes grey mullet, scad and sole — as well as rock lobster — from the Arabian Sea. 

Pakistan is ranked 11th in both flatfish and crustaceans among China’s suppliers, in volume terms, but is ranked seventh as a fishmeal provider, shipping 15,000 tons in 2012 according to Chinese customs. A close political ally and a neighbor of China, Pakistan was able to reopen the EU market for its seafood earlier this year after a six-year ban on sanitary grounds. The country shipped USD 320 million worth of seafood in 2012, down slightly year-over-year.

Unlike nearby Bangladesh (previously a part of Pakistan) the country has been slow to drive its aquaculture industry, something seafood exporters blame on government inaction. While demand for Pakistani seafood remains strong but Pakistan has lagged on reforms to its fisheries sector, said Zia Ul Haq Usmani at Karachi-based Omega Enterprises. Supplying croaker, cuttlefish and conger eel, the firm has struggled to meet volumes in demand from Chinese customers, said Usmani.

“Government will have to promote the growth of aquaculture with training and knowledge transfer,” he suggested. In the short-term he sees an opportunity to improve yields.

“Pakistani vessels are wasting a large percentage of the catch due to poor handling,” said Usmani. He also believes better standards of hygiene and sanitation are needed in Pakistan’s processing sector.

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