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Discussions in the sections below are supported by the results of the DEGITA producer and consumer field survey and the carp improvement project conducted during 1995-1996 and 1998-1999, respectively (ICLARM, 1998 and 2000). Specifically, information for the Philippines was extracted from the DEGITA project while the information for the rest of the countries under study was extracted from the carp project. This section opens with a brief discussion of the socio-demographic profile of freshwater fish farmers in selected Asian countries.

4.1 Profile of freshwater fish farmers

A socio-demographic profile of Asian fish farmers is presented in Table 3. The average age of fish farmers ranges between 43 and 52. Average level of education ranges from 4 to 12 years. Chinese farmers in general had the highest level of education (12 school years). The percentage of illiterate farmers appears to have varied between 2% (Thailand) to as high as 33% (India). Crop farming is the main occupation of the majority of the fish farmers in Bangladesh, Thailand and India, ranging from 41 to 65%. The high percentage of fish farming as a primary occupation in India (43%) is due to the high percentage of households (95%) that were fully dependent on fish culture in Andhra Pradesh, one of the sampled states. However, in many other states, such as Orissa and Uttar Pradesh, fish culture is still at a subsistence level. Fish culture as a main occupation is lowest in Viet Nam (2-4%), followed by Bangladesh (9%) and Thailand (20%). Fish farms are more of a subsistence nature in Bangladesh and Viet Nam, and to some extent in Thailand, where it has mainly developed as a rural activity integrated into existing farming systems. In Bangladesh, some ponds were used for various purposes (bathing, washing, etc). The farmers sampled in China were engaged in fish farming as their primary source of income.

Except for fish farmers who are engaged in cage culture, sample respondents have considerable fish farming experience, ranging from five to 15 years across the selected countries. In general, most Southeast Asian countries have had a long tradition of aquaculture (De Silva 1996). This is one of the main reasons why Asia has remained the leader in aquaculture production, and its dominance is also on the increase.

Except in Viet Nam, fish farming is mostly carried out by the male, who is head of the family. In Viet Nam, female participation is as high as 56% in the North and 50% in the South, indicating that carp farming is an occupation that can be undertaken by women. Participation of women in aquaculture activities in Asia has been on the increase in general. While fish farming is in fact highly dominated by men (with 95% male participation), in fish trading sex discrimination is less apparent. Women share fish farming activities such as fish rearing, with men. In Bangladesh, women are not usually permitted to do a range of fieldwork or to go to the markets and thus have some spare time for fish husbandry (Williams 1996). Information dissemination and training schemes on flexible technological choices have significantly enhanced women's participation, as well as productivity and rate of technology adoption (Ahmed, 1997; Ahmed et al., 1995; Gupta and Rab, 1994). Shaleesha and Stanley (2000), report that in fresh and brackish water aquaculture, women in India are engaged in carp polyculture, breeding and nursery raising, breeding of catfish and freshwater prawns in backyard hatcheries, ornamental fish breeding and culture of Spirulina and Azolla, net-making and mending, and feed preparation of carps and prawns. While in Thailand, the Philippines and India, women are more actively involved in fish marketing and processing than in producing. In some cases women also carry out and participate in fish culture and fish operations. Fish processing activities are undertaken either individually or as a family enterprise, while fish marketing is done by individuals, usually by wives of fish farmers. In urban communities, the involvement of women is mostly in marketing either as a broker/wholesaler and/or as a retailer.

The income structure shows that the average gross household income of Chinese fish farmers (US$ 17 321) was highest among the selected countries, followed by Thai farmers (US$ 11 272). The average gross income of state-owned, collective and cooperative farmers are US$ 149 135, US$ 184 963 and US$ 53 179, respectively. In general, the gross household income of fish farmers is above the national average income. Fish culture contributes as much as 80% in India and as little as 15% in Bangladesh. The contribution of carp farming to total income in India varies considerably between the states. It is only 15% in Orissa and 95% in Andhra Pradesh.

4.2 Freshwater fish production systems

Polyculture in ponds is the dominant production system for most of the selected countries. In China, production from ponds accounts for 77% of the total inland aquaculture production (Ye, 1996). Pond culture covers 1.86 million ha, or about 40% of the total available area and registered 74% of the total yield in 1995 (Cen and Zhang, 1998). Thailand, the Philippines and China have considerable practices of tilapia monoculture in cages. Monoculture and polyculture in tanks is also observed among fish farmers in the Philippines and India, respectively. Polyculture in paddy fields (rice-fish system) is also common in Bangladesh, China, Thailand and Viet Nam and to some extent in the Philippines. In addition, the fish culture development schemes in these countries (especially Thailand and Viet Nam) have been designed to fit into the socio-economic conditions of the rural populace and wherever possible, people are encouraged to culture fish in addition to pig or poultry raising and other agriculture activities. Cage and pen culture is almost negligible in Bangladesh and India, while these are quite considerable in Thailand, China and the Philippines. Farmers in Indonesia practise rice-fish farming over a wide area (1 700 000 ha of paddy). FAO reported that about 78% of Indonesian farming households cultivate fish in small ponds of less than 500 m, and aquaculture is the main source of income for 66% of the households that cultivate fish in the paddies and ponds. Potential production of freshwater aquaculture in Indonesia consists mainly of the use of fish in irrigation systems (about 4 million ha) and in about 1% of the open-water area of 14 million ha which consist of lakes, reservoirs, rivers and swamp (Kontara and Maswardi, 1999). Advanced rearing systems were developed in 1972 with the introduction of running water ponds, raceways, cages, floating net cages and pen culture (Jangkaru, 1981; Kontara and Maswardi, 1999) in these open-water bodies.

4.3 Effective land area

The average total area cultivated per household is as high as 4.91 ha for pond owners in the Philippines and as low as 1.04 ha in southern Viet Nam (Table 4). In China, family-based households operate only 3.60 ha on average, while state-owned, large-scale farms are as big as 131 ha. Cage owners in the Philippines owned 1.26 ha of land on average, of which 43% is used for fish culture. The area allocated to the fish pond is 32% in northern Viet Nam, followed by 31% in the Philippines, 24% in India and 26% in Thailand. On average, the size of the fish pond is bigger in China (1.70 ha) followed by the Philippines (1.56 ha), Thailand (1.21 ha) and northern Viet Nam (1.16 ha). The average size of the fish pond is only 0.20 ha in Bangladesh, because these ponds are basically natural water bodies used for various purposes along with stocking.

4.4 Ownership

Except in China and northern Viet Nam, the freshwater farms are mostly family-owned and members of the family assist in the operations. In China and northern Viet Nam, a considerable proportion of farms are state-owned or under collective ownership. Also in China and the Philippines, large-scale operations exist which rely heavily on farm managers or caretakers for operations. State owned freshwater fish farms in India (30%) are usually common water bodies owned by the state Irrigation Department and used by the Fisheries Department for stocking. Joint ownership is common in India, Thailand and Viet Nam.

4.5 Type of operation/farming duration/rearing type

In Indonesia, it takes only three to four months to rear carps in running water systems, while it takes eight to 12 months in Bangladesh, China and India. A considerable number of ponds in Bangladesh, India and Viet Nam are seasonal in nature. This is due to the seasonal floods that are common in these countries where farmers do not culture fish during these periods.

4.6 Water depth

The average water depth of the fish ponds during the dry season is as low as 0.93 m in southern Viet Nam and as high as 2.90 m in India. During the wet season, farmers maintain higher water levels in India (4.78 m). Cages in the Philippines have a minimum water depth of 4.20 m and 5.60 m on average during dry and wet seasons, respectively.

4.7 Composition of species, stocking density and sources of fingerlings

Although species diversity is vast in these countries, cultured species are limited in number. Bangladesh and India have Indian major carps (Labeo rohita, Catla catla and Cirrhinus mrigala) as the dominant cultured species (Table 5). In India, 70% of the total aquaculture production is contributed by Indian major carps (FAO, 1997).

There are over 40 freshwater species cultured in China (Cen and Zhang, 1998). The production survey of the carp project (ICLARM, 2000) showed that the major species include Chinese carps such as silver carps, common carps, grass carps and crucian carps. Production of the top three species - silver carp (3.71 million t), bighead (2.07 million t) and grass carp (1.4 million t) - collectively accounted for about 76% of national freshwater aquaculture in 1995. It should be noted, however, that China also cultured tilapia both in pond mixed with carps and monoculture in cages (Dey et al., 2000; ICLARM, 1998).

Tilapia is the dominant freshwater aquaculture species in the Philippines. Though production statistics show that milkfish and carps are available, milkfish is not widely cultured in freshwater fish ponds as compared to tilapia. Carps, on the other hand are considered as a newcomer. Due to its limited volume, the production statistics for carp species are lumped together with those for other species and it is only recently that the country started to keep a track of the production performance of carp species. Though production of carp is not even 1% that of tilapia, an average annual growth rate of 55% for freshwater pond production was achieved during 1993-1997 (Olalo, 2000)[1]. Carp has very strong potential to be a major fish to culture in the near future in the Philippines.

Thailand has a different kind of dominant cultured species like tilapia, Thai silver barb, walking catfish, snakeheads and common carp. Tilapia accounted for over 33% of the total cultured freshwater fish during 1997 and has become increasingly popular in every region in the country due to its fast growth and easy culture (Piumsonbun, 2000). Nile tilapia, walking catfish, Thai silver barb, “sepat siam”, striped catfish and striped snakehead contributed nearly 90% in quantity and over 75% in value during the period. Production of all the species mentioned, except “sepat siam,” increased significantly, particularly Thai silver barb, walking catfish and tilapia, which increased at average annual rates of 24%, 20% and 18%, respectively, during 1977-1997. Common carp is the dominant freshwater species produced in Indonesia, cultured in running water systems under monoculture and in paddy fields. Production in 1995 was 152 790 t, which contributed 55% of total freshwater fish production (Kontara and Maswardi, 1999). In Viet Nam, while rohu and silver carps are common in the north, common carp and silver barb are the dominant fresh water species in the south. Tilapia is also cultured throughout the country.

Stocking density is high in Bangladesh (10 300 pcs/ha) and India (18 400 pcs/ha) in relation to the amount of other inputs. On the contrary, China and Thailand stocked much more per hectare of water area (27 900 pcs/ha in China and 67 300 pcs/ha in Thailand) along with relatively higher use of supplementary feed and fertilizer.

Most of the fish farmers in China produce their own fingerlings. In Bangladesh and India, fingerlings are available from private and public hatcheries and from intermediary fingerling traders. Private hatcheries have a monopoly on fingerlings in Viet Nam - only about a quarter of the sample respondents in northern Viet Nam produce their own fingerlings. In the Philippines, cage operators get their fingerlings from private hatcheries. Pond operators in the Philippines and Indonesia obtain fingerlings from private and government hatcheries.

4.8 Input use and yield

Along with stocking density, inputs such as supplementary feeds and fertilizers determine the level of intensity of a given farm. Fish farmers practising intensive culture use complete feed with proportionally more protein and less carbohydrate content than for semi-intensive and extensive culture (Panayotou et al., 1982; Edwards, 1993 and Tacon, 1997). Table 6 shows the level of inputs used and the yields of different culture systems in the countries under study. Farmers in Bangladesh, India and Viet Nam use relatively less supplementary feed and other inputs in fish farming as compared to farmers in China and Thailand. The inputs used suggest that most of the farms in Bangladesh and India are extensive. In China, on the other hand, there are no extensive farms - most farms practise at least semi-intensive production. Dey et al. (2000) reports that freshwater cage culture in China is highly intensive. In the Philippines, extensive, semi-intensive and intensive operations co-exist. In Indonesia, running water systems are basically semi-intensive and intensive systems, while rice-fish systems are extensive (Kontara and Maswardi, 1999). For the running water systems and cage culture systems, heavy input dependence was on fingerlings, feed and labour. On the other hand, pond culture systems used various types of inputs, such as fingerlings, feed, fertilizer, chemicals, pesticides and labour. Average stocking density in ponds was between 10 300 to 136 400 pcs/ha. For pond culture systems, feeding was given in terms of commercial feed, rice bran, oil cake and other forms of feed. Both organic and inorganic fertilizers were used. Lime was only used in Bangladesh and Thailand.

Yields vary considerably among countries. This can be attributed to the variation in production intensity levels, production environments, farming systems and culture practices. China showed significantly higher yields than those of Bangladesh, India, Thailand and northern Viet Nam.

In India, production is best examined by state due to the differences between states in terms of farming practices and culture. Veerina et al. (1993) reported that in some parts of India, particularly in Andhra Pradesh, where 94% of the fish ponds were previously used for shrimp culture, farmers have successfully adopted semi-intensive production practices with average annual yields of 6-8 t/ha using organic and inorganic fertilizers and plant-based diets such as rice bran, cottonseed meal, de-oiled bran and groundnut cake as supplementary feeds. In general however, carp yields in India and Bangladesh were relatively similar. Yields in Thailand and northern Viet Nam are also relatively similar and are higher than those of Bangladesh and India. For Indonesia, cages produced significantly higher yield than running water systems.

4.9 Costs and returns, productivity and profitability

The costs and returns are expressed in US$, based on the exchange rates for local currencies during the survey period (1998-1999 and 1995-96 for the Philippines). Even though there are numerous concepts for determining the profitability of fish culture operations, this paper simply defines different profitability concepts depending upon types of costs deducted from gross revenues. Hence, profitability of freshwater fish production was measured in terms of operating profits, rates of return over variable costs and ratio of operating profit to variable. As fixed costs are not available from other countries, only variable cost was included in cost and return analysis. Data from China and Thailand shows that fixed cost accounted for about 10% of the total cost. Dey et al. 2000 reported that fixed cost in freshwater culture in these countries accounted for between 9% and 35% of the total cost. In Bangladesh and Viet Nam, as fixed cost is relatively unimportant (McConnel and Dillon, 1997), the used of gross margin is considered as a good measure of profitability (Dey et al., 2000).

Table 7 reports the cost and return/profitability of freshwater fish production. As for yield levels, the costs and returns of fish production vary widely due to differences in production environments, input levels, culture practices and farming systems. The average freshwater farm in participating countries had total receipts ranging from US$ 1 715.12/ha (Bangladesh) to US$ 10 797.11/ha (China) for ponds. Running water systems and cages in Indonesia had total receipts of US$ 506.89/100m2 and US$ 872.97/100m2, respectively.

Operating profits per hectare per production cycle were highest in China (US$ 3 448.08) followed by Thailand (US$ 1 470.70) and northern Viet Nam (US$ 1 398.57) and lowest in India (US$ 589.31). In the Philippines, operating profits in tilapia monoculture during 1995-96 were as high as US$ 1 326/ha per production cycle for ponds and US$ 495.20/100m2 per production cycle for cages. Positive operating profits shown by freshwater fish production ensures continuation of operations in the short term, providing that fixed assets cannot be liquidated without undue loss or switching to another farming activity is not be possible. Prospects for freshwater fish production over the long term can be seen by inclusion of fixed costs in calculating the profit.

Rate of return over variable cost is close to 150%, except in Bangladesh, Thailand, northern Viet Nam and cage culture in the Philippines, where the rate was over 200%. Cost per unit of output (or break-even price) implies that the country who has the lowest cost in producing a unit of output (US$/kg) is the most productive and cost effective. In this context, since the cost per unit of output and the unit output price is lowest in Bangladesh and Thailand, farmers from these countries are considered as more productive and cost effective than the farmers in other countries.

The levels of productivity and cost efficiency in Indonesian carp production were found to be unexpectedly low during the study. This may be due to the fact that the survey was done during the peak recession period when the farmers did not have the capacity or could not afford to purchase adequate inputs necessary for better production. For cage culture, Dey et al. (2000) showed that farmers who are engaged in tilapia cage culture in China are more productive and cost effective than cage farmers in the Philippines.

Feed costs were significant for pond operation in China and Thailand, where they account for about 46% and 33% of the total costs, respectively. Feed costs were equally important for Indonesia's RWS and cage systems, accounting for more than 50% of total costs. In Bangladesh and India, feed only accounts for 14% and 16% of the total costs, respectively. In all countries except India, the share of fingerlings to total cost is lower than the share of feed. This indicates that high feeding rates seem to compensate for low stocking rates. In general, it can be said that high yields correspond to high stocking and feeding rates. Commercial feed was used in minimal quantities, except for in China and Thailand.

It should be noted that freshwater farming is considerably more risky than other types of farming activity. The carp producers' survey (ICLARM, 2000) included both successful and unsuccessful farms, giving clear evidence of the socio-economic risks involved. In most cases, fish farmers are considered risk averse. The use of polyculture and integrated culture systems shows not only the profit maximization behaviour of fish farmers, but also that they are risk averse. To reduce costs on feed, they use various types of feed, such as rice bran, kitchen waste and oilcake.

4.10 Total factor productivity

The productivity measures used above, such as yield, operating profit, rate of return and cost per unit output, are biased due to the fact that differences in prices (both input and output) among the countries involved are not accounted for. To compare productivity measures taking into account the differences in input and output prices, we used the total factor productivity (TFP) indexes, specifically the interspatial Tornqvist index (TI). Following Dey et al. 2000, interspatial TI is defined as:


TIij = Interspatial Tornqvist Index,

Qi = Output quantity of country i,

Xki = Quantity of input k in the production process of country i,

ski = kth input cost share of country i.

The exponentiation of TIij gives the productivity difference between two countries (i.e. country i and country j). The equivalent dual cost index can be expressed as:


Ci = total cost of production for country i,

Pki = prices of input k in country i.

The exponentiation of -TIij in equation 2 gives the productivity differences of two countries in terms of cost, indicating how much more or less it would cost a particular country (say country i) compared to another (say country j) to produce the same quantity of output per unit area. We first estimate the dual cost index and then the production (primal) index is calculated by negating the dual cost index. To correct for differential product/species combination in various countries, production value is used in addition to production quantity as a measure of output in equation 2 to calculate the interspatial Tornqvist indices.

Table 8 summarizes the results of total factor productivity. TFP indices were computed for polyculture ponds for Bangladesh, China, India and northern Viet Nam using Thailand as the base for comparison. The table shows that only farmers from Bangladesh had incurred lower costs per hectare (30%) and at the same time lower yields (27%) than farmers in Thailand. Farmers in India, who incurred 76% higher costs per hectare than farmers in Thailand, had 9% lower yields in terms of production value and 15% lower in terms of production quantity. Farmers in northern Viet Nam, although they have slightly lower yields in terms of production quantity (4%), have slightly higher production values since they are facing slightly higher output prices than in Thailand. As shown in Tables 6 and 7, only farmers from China had higher yields (230%) in terms of production quantity. Farmers in these four countries face higher input prices than farmers in Thailand. If farmers in these countries faced the same input prices as in Thailand, they would produce more, ranging from 8% more in China to 243% more in northern Viet Nam. In terms of cost, it would cost farmers in northern Viet Nam and China 71% and 3% less than the farmers in Thailand, respectively, to produce the same yield level. Estimated productivity indices based on production values showed that if farmers in these countries faced the same input prices as in Thailand, they would have higher production value, ranging from 31% higher in India to 260% higher in northern Viet Nam. In terms of cost, it would cost farmers in northern Viet Nam and India 24% and 72% less than the farmers in Thailand, respectively, to produce the same level of production value. The study of Dey et al. (2000) using the Philippines as a base for comparison and using dual cost indexes based on production value, revealed that farmers in China are the most productive while farmers in Thailand are the most productive in terms of production quantity, followed by farmers in China and Bangladesh for polyculture in ponds. For tilapia monoculture both in ponds and in cages, farmers in China are more productive than farmers in the Philippines. In order for farmers in Thailand to remove the interspatial productivity differences between Bangladeshi fish farmers, farmers in Thailand must increase their yields by 12%. In the same manner, for farmers in Thailand to remove the interspatial productivity differences between Indian farmers, farmers in Thailand must increase their yields by 77%.

[1] Estimated production was only 80 t during 1993. It substantially increased to 1 865 t in 1997.

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