South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said they are seriously considering adopting a proposal introduced by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that will allow the local government to loan out start-up capital for the production of Pangasius catfish in the area.
“We’re very interested mainly because of the tremendous market opportunities for this catfish variety especially in terms of exports,” she said in her weekly radio program aired over the Radio Mindanao Network here this morning.
Fuentes said the production of Pangasius, also known as sutchi or striped catfish, has yet to gain significant interest among local fishpond owners and operators due to its relatively high production cost.
She said the cost of producing Pangasius may reportedly reach P1 million to P2 million per hectare.
But she said the high production cost can easily be recouped because of the product’s stable prices in both domestic and export markets.
The country is reportedly importing at least 500 metric tons annually of Pangasius fillet from Vietnam mainly for restaurants and fast food chains.
Fuentes said that based on their initial discussions with local DTI officials, several export companies based in this city are reportedly interested in marketing the Pangasius catfish that will be produced by the province.
She said the local government may reportedly arrange direct sales or buying agreements with the export companies once the production starts.
The governor said the provincial government is considering providing the required capital for the production of Pangasius through short-term repayment arrangements.
She said they will initially utilize a financial grant recently released by the national government to the province.
“We will not only be opening up a new industry but also provide immediate alternative sources of income for our constituents amidst the worsening global economic and financial crisis,” the governor added.
The production of Pangasius, which is being touted as the "next generation fish" in the country, was introduced by the DTI in the area about a year ago as an alternative to the thriving Tilapia and African or native catfish production.
DTI Region 12 officials earlier helped the establishment of a Pangasius demonstration farm to help facilitate the opening of new ventures in the region, which covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Cotabato, Kidapawan and Tacurong.
Fishpond owners in the region had reportedly signified interest to convert an initial 30 hectares of fishponds for Pangasius production this year. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)