The development of aquaculture in Kazakhstan is the future!
Sungat, the International Fishing Forum "KazAqua" was recently held in Almaty. Your company took an active part in its organization. Why this event is important for the industry?
- "KazAqua" Forum was held for the third time under the aegis of the Republican Association of public organizations of fishermen and fisheries "Kazakhrybkhoz". We can say that it has become an annual prestigious platform for dialogue between businesses, engaged in the fishing industry of Kazakhstan.
The recent forum was quite fruitful and constructive. Specific ideas and proposals, announced in the Forum, are being implemented now: contracts are concluded, pilot projects are being launched. Specifically, "Rybprom" company raised an issue on consolidating of efforts of all enterprises of the fishing industry of Kazakhstan: including those, which catch and cultivate fish, process and sell it.
Currently, there is a need to make changes in our market. Fish consumption in Kazakhstan maintains a very low level. According to official statistics, this figure is about 3-5 kilos per person per year. There is also a method based on a survey of households, and according to it, the number is 8-10 kilos per year. But still, it is too little. The World Health Organization recommends that people should consume at least 14 kilos of fish per year. Meanwhile, fish consumption in Russia, which is similar to Kazakhstan in terms of mentality and cuisine, is about 20 kilo per year. This figure amounts to 40 in Western Europe, whereas people in South East Asia and the Far East eat on an average of 60 kilos of fish annually.
It is well-known that Kazakh traditional cuisine includes a lot of dishes of red meat, however, many people have begun to realize the importance of sticking to a balanced diet and consuming fish at least several times a week. Fish is high in valuable vitamins and microelements. Unfortunately, fish products are still poorly represented in the market, especially in the places of civilized trade, such as supermarket networks, which provide technical conditions for storing products. It is known, that trade networks have high margins. In this case, local producers either refuse to cooperate with them or accept the fact that their products may not attract consumers due to high prices.
What are the solutions?
- In the Forum "KazAqua" we agreed to control prices together. But how? The answer is by optimizing costs, controlling amounts of commercial fish in the market. As we know, there are sources of fish: fishing from natural reservoirs, which is subject to quotas; imported fish (herring, capelin, mackerel, and other marine and oceanic fish) and aquaculture - cultivation of commercial fish in artificial reservoirs (cages, pools, ponds, closed water supply installations (UZV), etc.) under industrial conditions.
It should be noted that more and more enterprises in Kazakhstan have become involved in aquaculture. If we control the cost price of fish and agree with retailers on the pricing system, we could make prices of our products reasonable. That is about an average price segment. Luxury-segment fish sorts (halibut, black cod, red snapper, tuna, crabs, etc.) are imported to Kazakhstan by planes and delivered to expensive restaurants, these products have their niche, and we will not talk about that now.
After the Forum "Rybprom" company has actively begun the negotiation process with fisheries of Kazakhstan, offering to them mutually beneficial cooperation. Specifically, we are ready to accompany the process of cultivating fish from supplies of feed, which is produced by the Kazakhstani company "Aqua Alliance"and monitoring of the cultivation process to technological support and production of finished goods.
The company "Rybprom" has an offer to trading companies too, which could decline fish prices in stores. Also, we should seriously work in the system of HoReCa (hotels, restaurants, catering). These are a very large niche for our products, especially in Almaty and Astana, where the hospitality industry is well developed.
Meanwhile, restaurants have little to offer in terms of fish dishes. For instance, salmon, which is artificially cultivated and imported from Norway, Chile or Argentine and served here as something exotic and expensive. Restaurants also offer sea bass, which is a product of aquaculture and delivered from Turkey. Another example is the Vietnamese Pangasius, which is actually a cheap fish. We would like to establish cooperation with the HoReCa segment so that restaurateurs would pay more attention to the locally made products and local fish species.
We believe that our region has a huge potential with regards to the development of commercial fish production or aquaculture. Kazakhstan has large reserves of freshwater, rivers coming from mountains, springs coming out of the ground. These natural factors make the development of aquaculture more sustainable. There is also workforce and specialists, working since Soviet times. All we have to do is to popularize fish consumption.
- I think, the demand for fish already exists. The number of people opting for a healthy lifestyle is increasing.
- It is not enough for the development of the industry. We would like to attract the attention of the Ministry of Healthcare of Kazakhstan and Kazakh Nutrition Institute in solving this issue. A healthy diet, including raising of fish consumption, genuinely should become a national goal. It can be implemented for example, in the form of public-private partnership.
Apart from that, we would like to make it clear that fish, cultivated and processed in our facilities is high quality. We have already begun cooperation with the Association of chefs of Kazakhstan, which will organize master classes on the preparation of fish, thus, promoting the culture of fish consumption.
Changing the eating habits of people is a very difficult and long-term task, but it's worth it. As a result, we would see a healthy nation and a booming fishing industry.
Advantages of our fish are obvious. In the late 90-s when our products were exported to overseas countries, a Western consumer appreciated the quality and naturalness of our product. By the way, it was export, which helped us to harmonize our enterprises with the legislation of the EU. In 2000 only three Kazakhstani enterprises - "AtyrauBalyk", "Balkhashbalyk" and "Rybprom" - were authorized and given the right to export their goods to Europe. Export of products at that time contributed to the development of the fishing industry due to cash inflows, and investments to this sector as well.
It should be noted that aquaculture has been rapidly growing all over the world. We should take into account this fact. Not only fish but also a bird, meat are produced in farms using special feed. Products grown in natural conditions are expensive, and protein, cultivated in artificial conditions will be consumed most.
It is not good or bad. We lack natural feed needed for the production of protein products. Businesses use ready to feed, which contain balanced ingredients and allow to start production on an industrial scale. For example, our company "Aqua Alliance" produces extruded feed for various fish species: rainbow trout, sturgeon, carp, tilapia, shrimp, African catfish. Fishing enterprises from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Armenia, Belarus, and Russia have already appreciated the quality and stability of supplies of the company's products. Also, the price is reasonable, because 95% of our feed is from local raw materials vegetable oil, fish meal, minerals, yeast, waste of wheat, corn, soy.
"Aqua Alliance" company also offers technological and technical consulting services, helping entrepreneurs to build and run farms, cultivating rainbow trout, carp, and sturgeon. Using locally made feed reduces the cost price of finished products, which makes such a business profitable. Because the cost of feed makes up 60-80% of the total cost of cultivating fish. In other words, in order to grow 1 kilo of trout, you will need 1.2 kilos of feed.
It is important that the development of aquaculture in the domestic market entails fewer risks for businesses, rather than import, which is dependent on currency rate, international political situation, and foreign producers. Import is vulnerable, although we do need imported products - oceanic fish is good for a diet.
Since the beginning of this year, "Rybprom" has actively begun creating aquaculture fisheries and helping other enterprises in their establishment in order to cultivate commercial fish. We will receive our first products next year.
- Can you tell us more about this partnership?
- We provide fisheries our feed, which is competitive both in terms of price and quality as opposed to imported feed. Also, we are monitoring all fishing production processes, and recommend to fisheries technological parameters of production (size, weight, processing method). It is attributed to the fact that trading organizations may have such requests because they tend to sell products which are popular among consumers. It is important for us too, because we purchase their products. In other words, they should not worry about processing, as "Rybprom company" has specialist and processing capacities. Our goal is to bring this product to the market so that it could find its niche. And we will be a quality guarantor of finished goods. Also, we commit ourselves to monitor the competitiveness of prices so that local trout does not end up costing like Norwegian salmon.
Look at Vietnam, the poorest country, which managed to develop aquaculture and produce artificially grown pangasius (a catfish family), which is one of the main export items of the country. The same success story can be seen in Malaysia, which succeeded in producing tilapia, and Turkey, which is good at cultivating sea bass and dorado. Even Kyrgyzstan is more developed than us in terms of commercial fish farming, although it has the same natural resources (mountains, lakes, valleys) as we do. Uzbekistan adopted a government program on the development of the fishing industry, and it plans to increase fish production to 100 000 tons per year by 2020. In 2016 they already produced 66 000 tons, and this year – 75 000 tons, as opposed to Kazakhstan, which is going to increase this number to only 15 000 tons by 2020.
Kazakhstan has definitely adopted special programs, rules of subsidizing fishing farms for purchase of seeding materials and feed. Up to 30% of these expenses are compensated by the government. There are investment subsidies and other instruments, which may encourage the growth of the industry. Nevertheless, despite these efforts, we cannot see rapid changes and improvements in this sphere. In our opinion, the lack of demand is the main reason for that. That's why, as I said before, we have started working with enterprises of the HoReCa segment, so that they could offer to their customers locally made fish products.
I want to highlight that we are looking forward to the next "KazAqua" Forum, which will be held in Almaty in May-June 2018. We would like this event to become an investment forum, and offer to funds, banks, potential private investors very interesting and promising projects in the fishing industry. Obviously, the development of aquaculture is the future.
- Good luck in your endeavors