The Nation, Bangkok
FTA Fund to aid development of fish products
By Petchanat Pratruangkrai
23 August 2012
Free Trade Agreement Fund officials are pursuing a plan to develop Thai fish products in local communities, as concern grows that the domestic market is facing an influx of cheaper fisheries produce from neighbouring countries under the Asean seamless market. The plan will focus on developing the procurement and processing of gourami, a freshwater fish currently farmed mainly in Chachoengsao province.
Surasak Riangkrul, deputy director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, yesterday said Thai aquaculture farmers should be encouraged to add value to their products to ensure they are competitive and can benefit from trading opportunities under the Asean Free Trade Agreement.
"Many fish and dried fish products from countries bordering Thailand have entered the domestic market. Local fish producers should develop their products and processing so that they can compete with cheaper fish from neighbouring countries," he said. According to the department, Thailand has about 5,500 gourami fish farmers, covering 130,000 rai (20,800 hectares) of aquaculture area. With an annual trading value of about Bt1.5 billion, the bulk of the production is from fish farming, and only 3 per cent from natural water sources. About 40 per cent of the gourami are processed as dried or preserved products. Only 0.2 per cent are exported, bringing in Bt16 million a year.
Surasak said fish from neighbouring countries were much cheaper than local produce because of lower production costs.
The Free Trade Agreement Fund will help develop Thai fish farmers and processors to add value to their products. It will develop traceability measures and promote the adoption of new production technology, he added. The official explained that the development plan would also focus on environment-friendly farming and processing so that Thai fish businesses can increase their access to overseas markets.
Five new types of fish products will also be developed for commercialisation: fish sausages, fish crackers, dried fish, fish-skin snacks, and calcium-powdered fish