Swat’s famous trout fish is facing serious threats of being perished due to the non-utilization of the matured stock in farms owing to ban on hotels, restaurants, and on the arrival of tourists to the scenic valley to stem the spread of coronavirus infection.
“There is about 400 tonnes (400,000 kgs) of trout fish lying in around 150 fish farms set up on the embankment of river Swat, starting from Maidain to Kalam and upper areas,” said Usman Ali, General Secretary Swat Trout Fish Farming Association. Due to the prevailing pandemic of coronavirus, the fish farm owners could not utilize their stock which got matured and ready for consumption by the end of March and the start of April, Usman told APP.
There were around 150 trout fish farms in Swat Valley and the fish stock lying in those farms was estimated around 400 tonnes or more than that which was at risk of being perished due to non-utilization, Usman reiterated.
Swat is considered as one of the highest trout fish producing districts and fish farms here grow four kinds of fish including Rainbow, Brown, Kamloop and Salmon.
The estimated value of trout fish stock was calculated at Rs600 million because one kg of the fish was sold in market from price ranging between Rs1000 to Rs1300, Usman added.
Talking to APP, Usman Ali said trout fish reached maturity in a 14 months period which was completed in the month of March and April, but due to lockdown and restrictions on the hotel industry and the arrival of tourists to the valley, trout fish could not be supplied in markets, inflicting huge losses on the owners. He said fish farm owners earned once in a year and if they missed this stock, they will have to wait for another year to recover from losses besides making earnings. About the feeding expenditure, he said the price of per kg of feed was Rs150 and a large fish farm’s annual expenditure was around Rs3 million on an annual basis, making it to two hundred and fifty thousand rupees on a monthly basis.
For the last few months, the farm owners are incurring this additional burden to feed the matured stock and are waiting for the lifting of the ban on the hotel industry and tourists arrival for supplying their stock in the market. Usman said that if the ban was not lifted for a period of one more month, the whole stock of around 400,000 kg of famous trout fish would be wasted, inflicting serious financial damages on farm owners besides rendering hundreds of thousands of employees jobless.
Usman also claimed that after passage of maturity period trout fish become prone to different diseases and start losing weight. He said if the farm owners keep on feeding the fish, it was still facing threats of contracting diseases due to becoming overage and would not be suitable for human consumption.“Trout fish sale starts from the month of March and in the current year the fish is still in the farm in the month of June, causing weight loss problems to the stock,” informs Ibrar Ahmad, District Officer Fisheries.
Ibrar informed APP that there were about 92 fish farms registered with the Fisheries department and in each farm around 2500 kg of fish was grown which after becoming fully mature was now getting over age. The sale of trout fish from an official hatchery in Swat district during last year was calculated at around Rs8.5 million, he added.
In one farm around four to fifteen labourers work directly and so far due to slump in business around 1500 laborers had been laid off. A large number of people were associated with fish businesses who work at roadside fish frying eateries and hotels were also becoming affected, said Usman Ali.
Similarly, due to breakage in the business cycle, the farm owners are also going to miss purchase of new stock of baby fish for next season as trout fish become mature in 14 months. Delay in utilization of mature trout fish is also threatening purchase of new stock for the upcoming year, because fish farm owners will not be in a position to make investment after facing losses in millions of rupees, Usman warns.
Zahid Ali, an office-bearer of Swat Hotels Association Swat also requested quarters concerned to give heed to the plight of trout fish farm owners and other people associated with the hotel and tourism industry of the region. He said representatives of hotels and tourism industry fully assure implementation of all SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) chalked out by the government and health department for ensuring the safety of people and for stemming the spread of coronavirus, Zahid added. He said like other businesses, hoteliers should also be allowed to work within a selected time frame so that people could be saved from starvation and mental stress.