THE productivity of fish farms and the quality of their output are declining due to the feed and fingerling shortages, industry representatives said.

“Due to the low quality of feed, Filipino favorites like bangus (milkfish) and tilapia that are grown in fish farms now need more feed to grow to marketable size,” Asis G. Perez, co-convenor of food security advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan, said.

According to Tugon Kabuhayan, fish farm associations have reported that their feed conversion ratio (FCR) has also increased.

FCR is the feed needed to yield a kilo of fish. Mr. Perez said a higher FCR means higher production costs.

Malalag Bay Fish Cage Operators and Fisherfolk Association President Joseph Anthony Lanzar said the industry is also facing a shortage of high-quality fish fry.

“Our problem is that we are having a shortage of fry. The fry being shipped from Indonesia is often low-quality,” he said.

“Almost half of fish pond operators in Mindanao are affected. The quality of the feed is not good. If you use low-quality feed, the FCR goes up. Our FCR is now 2.4 to 2.6. It is higher than ever,” he added.

Adrienne Nara, spokesperson for the Taal Lake Aquaculture Alliance, Inc., said that its members’ FCR is now at 2.2-2.4 from 1.8-2.0 previously. “Low water quality due to the Taal Volcano eruption has also affected (us),” he added.

“One kilo of bangus in Visayas farms used to consume 1.2 to 1.6 kilos of feed to grow large enough to be harvested. Now they need 1.8 to 2 kilos,” Philippine Association of Fish Producers, Inc. Chairman David B. Villaluz said.

“Higher FCR translates to a P10 per kilo increase in production costs. Add the P4 per kilo increase in feed cost, the total increase in production cost is P14. Small fish farms may not be able to bear these additional costs,” he added.

The industry representatives also urged the government to implement a broodstock project to lower the cost of fish farming.

“We need a central hatchery to provide adequate fry to our growers. This way we can stop our dependence on Indonesia. We are not getting consistent fry quality from them. It can range from Class A to Class C fry, depending on the seller,” Mr. Villaluz said. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson