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3.1. Production Status
3.2. Impact on the National Economy

3.1. Production Status

The total production from aquaculture in 1997 was 957,546 mt. As mentioned earlier this is equivalent to 34.6% of total fisheries production by volume as against 26.4% in 1988. During the last ten years it has been growing at an average rate of 5.42% annually with a negative growth only in 1997 as shown in Figure 4.

The negative growth in 1997 was mainly due to two commodities, shrimps and mussels. P. monodon production dropped by 47.4% to 41,000 mt as the industry continues to grapple with disease problems brought about by auto-pollution. Mussel production dropped by 44.6% to 11,658 mt probably due to frequent red tide occurrence during which harvesting and sale are prohibited. Contributing to the decline were tilapia and seaweeds. Tilapia production from freshwater ponds dropped by 2.7% probably due to the prolonged drought caused by El Niño. During the same period seaweed production dropped slightly by 0.7 percent apparently also due to El Niño (Anonymous, 1998). Although other species posted positive growth, notably milkfish from fishpens (31.4%) and from brackishwater fishponds (5.7%), these were not sufficient to offset the huge decreases in the mussels and shrimps.

As shown in Table 7, the 1997 production involved at least 18 species (or groups) ranging from seaweed to fish. However only four species exceeded 10,000 mt, these are seaweeds, milkfish, tilapia, oysters and mussels. Seaweeds actually consist of at least three species, two of which are actually also grown in brackishwater ponds. These are not reflected in the statistics. Neither were the milkfish produced in some 70 units of Norwegian cages installed off the town of Sual in Pangasinan. Each of these cages is capable of producing at least 30 mt of milkfish in four to five months. Together these cages have the potential of producing 4,200 mt of milkfish with an average body weight of 500 g.

3.2. Impact on the National Economy

Production from aquaculture in 1997 was valued at PHP27,400 million, and constituted 34% of the value of total fisheries production. Of some 173,887 mt of fish and fishery products exported in 1997, 51,375 mt or 29.5% were shrimps and seaweeds which are now mainly from aquaculture. The two products assume a greater significance by value. Out of a total FOB value of USD549.8 million for all fishery exports, USD224.1 million came from shrimps and seaweeds. This is equivalent to 40.8 percent of total fishery product export. Other aquaculture commodities exported include milkfish and live groupers.

Current statistics on the number of people directly employed or dependent on the aquaculture industry is not available. The last comprehensive census of fisheries was made in 1980. As mentioned at the beginning of this paper, a 1995 census on population and housing came up with figures that are hard to reconcile with the 1980 fisheries census. In the 1980 Census, it was estimated that 221,492 people were employed in the aquaculture industry that accounted for 24.1 percent of the total number employed in fisheries. The 1980 Census of Fisheries was remarkable in the amount of detail it provided regarding aquaculture operations as shown in Table 8.

BFAR has been using 258,480 as the employment figure for aquaculture since 1987. While the hectarage of brackishwater fishponds, the mainstay of Philippine aquaculture, has not increased by much since then, it is generally known that there has been an increase in the number, and more widespread application, of fish cages, although estimates on the number are not available. Fish cage culture, as practiced in many lakes in the Philippines, are much more labor-intensive than fishponds due to the more frequent feeding required.

Aquaculture also requires various support services such as gathering of wild fry in the case of milkfish and hatchery production of tilapia fingerlings. Not to be excluded are the dike-builders whose services are always required for regular maintenance work after the ponds shall have been constructed.

But perhaps the largest upsurge in aquaculture labor force may have occurred largely unnoticed in seaweed production. There has been a more than 7.5 fold increase in the production of seaweeds from only 83,000 mt in 1981 to 627,105 mt in 1997. In 1980, the Census of Fisheries reported the number of operators at 16,477 and the number of employed workers at 16,805 persons, for a total of 33,282 persons involved in seaweeed production. This places the unit production per person involved at approximately 2.5 mt seaweed per person. Even assuming that the production efficiency has doubled so that the unit per person production has reached 5.0 mt per person, the 1997 seaweed production figure still translates to some 125,421 operators and employed workers combined.

In addition to the growth of the seaweed industry, cage culture, which was still insignificant in 1980, is assuming a considerable degree of importance. The total brackishwater pond area has remained almost steady since 1980 and it is not likely that the number of people employed in brackishwater ponds would have changed much since 1980. Thus it is likely that that total employment generated by the aquaculture industry will have exceeded 300,000. While the figure may appear small realtive to the total labor force of 27.888 million, it is more than the combined labor forces of mining and quarrying (124,000) and the power and water sector (139,000).

Thus the aquaculture industry contributes to food security, employment and foreign exchange generation in no small way. It assumes even greater importance when viewed against the micro-economies of specific localities. In the municipality of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato province (Mindanao), the tilapia industry is considered the backbone of the town’s economy. The Lake Sebu town mayor in a 1994 tilapia workshop attested that the fish farming sector contributed more than 50 percent of the annual municipal income and employs ten percent of its total labor force (Loco, 1994). It is likely that Lake Sebu is not an isolated case.

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