FISH could become more attractive to consumers because of rising global prices of soybean and corn, which are key inputs in the production of feed widely used to prepare hogs and chickens for market, advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan said.

In a virtual briefing Monday, Tugon Kabuhayan convenor Asis G. Perez said prices of corn and soybean increased in January.

“For January 2021, the price of corn reached $234.47 per metric ton (MT) compared to $171.79 per MT in the same period last year. Same goes for soybean which rose to $576.3 per MT against $387.05 per MT in 2020,” Mr. Perez said.

“This is alarming because a lot of feed uses corn and soybean. Because of this, we see that meat imports scheduled to arrive in the Philippines will have higher prices also,” he added.

Mr. Perez said fish consume less feed overall compared to hogs and chickens.

He added that tilapia only needs 1.1 kilograms (kg) of feed to produce one kilogram of meat, while 1.7 to 2 kg of feed are required to yield a kilogram of milkfish (bangus).

“Fish is the most efficient converter of animal feed into protein among animals,” Mr. Perez said.

Mr. Perez said four kilograms of feed are needed to produce a kilogram of pork, while 1.2 to 1.7 kg of feed are required for a kilogram of chicken.

He said fish producers usually use rice bran as feed since the digestive tracts of fish are not designed to process corn or soybean.

“The fisheries sector will be able to respond quicker to higher prices since it is not dependent on imported ingredients,” Mr. Perez said.

Mr. Perez also pointed to the availability of alternative fish feed inputs like algae and copra, the use of which may depend on initiatives from the government and private sector to increase adoption.

“If we can grow algae, which can be plentiful in our country, it is one source that can be developed to provide feed for fish production,” Mr. Perez said.

Mr. Perez urged the government to change its policy to make agriculture less dependent on imports.

“We encourage local investors and entrepreneurs to invest more in food production and for the government to further develop the policy environment that will spur further growth in the sector,” Mr. Perez said.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, fisheries output in 2020 fell 0.3% year on year to 4.403 million MT.    

Aquaculture accounted for 52.8% or 2.32 million MT, followed by municipal fisheries at 25% or 1.10 million MT, and commercial fisheries at 22.2% or 978,170 MT. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave