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Catfish export potential not fully exploited

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By Anthony Joseph

MIRI: ‘Ikan keli’ or catfish are found in abundance all over the country.
But many, particularly in Sarawak, are still unaware of its export potential.

The ‘traditional white meat fish industry’ has a ‘new kid on the block’ - catfish, Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department (Bumiputera Entrepreneur Development) Mohd Naroden Majais said.

Vietnamese catfish has successfully penetrated the European markets.

Vietnam exported around US$737 million of catfish last year, while European Union (EU) imports rose by 146 per cent and Russia by 1,389 per cent over 2005, totalling around US$343 and US$83 million, respectively.

Thus, EU has now become the largest market for Vietnamese catfish.

Exports to the United States of America and other markets including Asia have also grown rapidly, which helped Vietnam in achieving the target of US$1 billion worth of catfish exports last year.

As demand grows, the US imports of catfish in 2006 increased markedly totalling 34,000 metric tonnes (US$111 million), up 150 per cent in volume and 225 per cent in value over 2005.

Against this background, many countries in Asia such as China, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, are aggressively expanding the farming of catfish of different species, to cater both for local and export markets.

Stating this to thesundaypost, Naroden said a number of entrepreneurs in Peninsular Malaysia had realised the potential of catfish for export and ventured into catfish farming.

“They have succeeded in penetrating European and Middle East markets as well as Japan,” the assistant minister said.

In this context, the assistant minister urged local entrepreneurs, particularly Bumiputeras, to venture into farming of catfish as they were easily available and in abundance in Sarawak.

He said catfish were easy to rear and had a strong resilience to diseases.

As an incentive for entrepreneurs, Naroden said the government through its agencies would provide various assistance.

Meanwhile, most of the catfish sold in this division are from Bakong, Bekenu and Niah.
There are two species of catfish available locally - ‘keli kuning’ (yellow catfish) and ‘keli chelum’ (black catfish).

The yellow species is sold at RM16 per kg and the other RM12.

Apart from catfish farming, Naroden said, local entrepreneurs could also look into leech farming which had a huge market in Europe particularly for pharmaceutical purposes.

“However, leech farming is still not popular in the country,” he added.
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