Ahead of the government’s plan to import fish products like galunggong or round scad, consumers were encouraged to instead buy locally caught and produced fisheries and aquaculture products such as bangus and tilapia.
“Comparing galunggong and tilapia, the taste is different but they have the same protein content. It’s the same. So if galunggong is expensive, buy tilapia,” Asis Perez, former director of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), said in a virtual bi-monthly food security forum on Monday.
Other products that would serve as a good alternative to galunggong, or the ‘poor man’s fish’, would be bangus and shellfish products like talaba and tahong, he said.
Perez made the statement ahead of the three-month closed fishing season for galunggong starting November 1, as well as amid the proposal of BFAR to import fish to fill in the expected gap in the supply of this particular fish product.
To help local producers, Tugon Kabuhayan, an agricultural advocacy group, appealed for government support in promoting patronage for local products.
Perez, who is now the convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan, reiterated that local producers are very much willing to supply food to consumers, especially during the closed season and despite the onset of the pandemic.
“They just need support in improving the supply chain,” he said.
The current average price of galunggong stood around P160 per kilogram (/kg) to P240/kg, while tilapia and bangus can be bought for around P90/kg to P140/kg and P110/kg to P80/kg, respectively.
“There is enough supply of bangus that can fill in the gap in the supply of galunggong,” Perez said.
“The best alternatives right now really are bangus and tilapia, which are affordable and available,” he added.
In the long-term, Perez said the government may also want to consider improving the production of non-feeding aquaculture commodities, including shellfish products like talaba and tahong which are also great sources of protein.
“Small fishermen could benefit from that too because they are the ones who normally grow these kinds of products,” Perez said.
According to him, if the government could encourage consumers to instead buy bangus and tilapia instead of imported galunggong, this would be a good way to increase the demand for local production at the same time will encourage fishermen and fish growers too.
“We are not entirely against importation, but there is an opportunity on the part of local producers to fill in that gap,” Perez said.
“Importation should be calculated for the benefit of the local producers because that might result in contraction in future local production,” he added.
The other day, a group of fish growers asked Agriculture Secretary William Dar to re-consider his agency’s plan to import fish to compensate for the expected shortfall in the supply of main staple fishery products like tilapia and galunggong.
In a letter to Dar, Taal Lake Aquaculture Alliance Inc. (TLAAI) President Rodrigo Cacao said his group now “strongly” objects to the proposed importation of tilapia.
“We are requesting that your good office reconsider this proposed action as we have seen the detrimental effects of importation on the agriculture/aquaculture industries,” Cacao said.
“We would also like to counter the claim that there is a supply shortage for Tilapia at least in our current markets,” he added.
The recent food supply outlook of the Department of Agriculture (DA) showed that there will be a deficit of about 12,036 metric tons MT (MT) for tilapia by the end of this year.
This, since the expected supply for this fishery product is only at 102,624 MT, while the demand is around 114,660 MT.
Without imports, according to DA, the country’s total supply for fish is estimated to be at 2.9 million MT, which is lower than the demand of 3.3 million MT.
“We are still recovering from the effects of the recent Taal Volcano eruption but we are on track to return to pre-eruption supply levels. In terms of demand we have also felt lower demand due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and we still see a slow return to normal demand levels,” Cacao further said.
Before Taal Volcano’s eruption, the daily harvest from Taal Lake ranges from 120 to 150 MT of bangus and tilapia.
Total fish production from the 6,000 cages of TLLAI members, for instance, usually reaches more than 50,000 MT each year.
Of this volume, about 60 percent is consumed in Batangas, Cavite, Laguna and Quezon, while the remaining 40 percent is sent to Metro Manila and sold through the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority’s fish port complex in Navotas City.
The other day, fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) also asked the government to look for other solutions to the expected shortage of tilapia and galunggong, saying that importation will be detrimental to small fishermen.