|By pinoyfarmer | March 7, 2010|
“BANGUS has always been the most important species cultured in the Philippines in terms of area and production.” These words come from the mouth of Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero III, former executive director of the Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (PCAMRD).
In fact, the Philippines is one of the top bangus producers in the world, along with Indonesia and Taiwan. “Until recently, the country has contributed around 55 percent share of the world bangus production,” said Dr. Guerrero, who popularized tilapia production and consumption in the country.
The Philippines has been exporting bangus to other countries like the United States, England, Canada, and Japan. “The main consumer market, however, is the United States, where there are large Filipino communities,” Dr. Guerrero said.
Bangus farming is a centuries-old industry not only in the Philippines but in other Asian countries as well like Indonesia and Taiwan. In the Philippines, bangus is the major species in brackishwater fish farming and mariculture.
Reportedly, the industry employs close to 300,000 fish farmers, entrepreneurs, processors and workers.
To make the fishponds and fish cages productive throughout the year, adequate supply of bangus fingerlings is necessary. In the past, bangus growers depended on the fry caught from the wild. This was seen as a big gamble because the volumes of wild-caught fry are low and seasonal. Estimated supply from the wild is about 200 million out of the national demand of two billion bangus fry on a good year.
In recent years, importing fingerlings from Taiwan and Indonesia was the only option although it was not also practical as the fry are very expensive.
But with Finfish Hatcheries, Inc. (FHI) now selling bangus fry, bangus growers need not worry anymore. “We have been in the bangus fry production business since 1997,” said Rene B. Bocaya, FHI’s national marketing manager.
According to Bocaya, the price per piece of wild bangus fry was P1.00 a decade or so ago. “With the introduction to the market of hatchery produced fry (local and imported), the price now ranges from thirty to forty-five centavos per piece only. The hatchery-produced fry doesn’t only give very big savings to the fishpond operators, but it also provides them good quality and steady supply throughout the year.”
As a result of steady supply of bangus in the market, there are now processing plants for bangus value-added products. The foreign exchange earnings from bangus exports have been reported to be about US$15 million.
In Sarangani Province, where the FHI’s hatchery is located, bangus production has increased considerably. Actually, the hatchery is in Lun Masla, Malapatan. Here, about 13,000 breeders are maintained and managed to produce bangus eggs on a daily basis throughout the year. The eggs are collected, cleaned and hatched. The hatchlings are grown to the marketable sizes in 18-21 days in larval ponds. During the growing period, they are fed with a mixture of planktons and commercial feeds.
The breeders are 50 percent males and 50 percent females. “It is tedious to sex the fish individually and tag them,” Bocaya explains. “We have some breeders that are more than 25 years old and are still breeding in groups well.”
It takes five years for a bangus to mature sexually. FHI selects breeders for commercial production only when they are eight years old. The female breeder, called sabalo, can produce seven kilos of eggs in one year. And one kilo consists of 750,000 eggs.
Bangus is grown in a number of stages and in varying degrees of culture intensity depending on the grower’s production design and the nature of the growing environment. The simplest bangus value chain is the three-stage system of a nursery stage, a transition stage and a grow-out stage.
In the nursery, bangus is grown from fry (kawag-kawag) to fingerling (hatirin). In the transition stage, the fingerlings are grown to juvenile (garungan). In the grow-out stage the juveniles are grown to marketable sizes.
In the grow-out stage, bangus is produced in a number of categories depending on the pond structure the capitalization and the grower’s production design. Traditional extensive ponds using lablab as feeds normally seed 2,000 juveniles of 50 grams in size. Lablab production is takes six weeks. A well-prepared lablab pond can produce 500 kilograms of fish biomass. With 2,000 juveniles stocked, the grower is able to produce 300-gram fish in three to four months from seeding.
In intensive ponds with aeration, growers can produce 8,000-10,000 kilograms of bangus fish in a hectare. Stocking density to grow 500-gram fish is about 20,000 juveniles per hectare. In fish pens in Laguna Lake, juveniles of 30 to 50 grams are stocked at 50,000 per hectare. There is no feeding needed as the lake provides the algae that the bangus feed on.
In marine sea cages, juveniles of 30 to 50 grams are stocked at a rate of 20-50 per square meter depending on the site and the business plan of the grower. Harvest can reach up to 30-40 kilograms per cubic meter of 500-gram bangus in six to eight months.
According to Bocaya, at least 50 percent of the costs in intensive pond systems go to feeds. The other costs that figure are electricity, water, labor and pond maintenance costs. In marine cage systems, feeds are 80 percent of the costs. In extensive systems, lablab production is still 40 percent of the costs.
“On the average, gross profits are at about 25 to 30 percent of selling price on a good year across all production systems,” Bocaya points out.
No wonder, sales of hatchery-bred fingerlings are increasing. When they were new, the fish operators and growers were skeptical about using the hatchery-bred fingerlings. They thought that those caught from the wild were more hardy.
However, the perceptions of bangus farmers have changed, Bocaya said.
They now prefer the hatchery-bred fingerlings because they are more uniform and they also grow faster. Those from the wild usually have a survival rate of 50 to 60 percent while those from the hatchery usually have 82 to 85 percent survival rate.
FHI now sells hatchery-bred fingerlings all over the country. The major bangus production areas in the Philippines are Pangasinan, Bulacan, Laguna de Bay, Taal Lake, Iloilo, Bicol, Negros, Agusan, Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga Provinces, Davao Provinces and the Cotabato Provinces.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has likewise spearheaded the production of bangus in mariculture parks all over the country. “All of these parks need fishpond nurseries and transition ponds to grow the juveniles,” Bocaya reports.
Written By Henrylito D. Tacio
Source: Sun Star