Kazakhstan struggles to unlock its aquaculture potential


Source: WOAH

Despite some progress, the Central Asian country has fallen well short of its ambitious production targets

Despite some progress, the Central Asian country has fallen well short of its ambitious production targets, and while government has pledged more support to get the industry on track, state policy remains inconsistent and resources are limited.

The industry’s production performance has doubled since the Kazakh government embarked on a journey to expand the country’s aquaculture in 2020. In 2022, farmers manufactured 13,200 tonnes of fish and seafood – the highest figure in its post-Soviet history. But while these are positive developments, a number of complicated underlying issues remain.

Under the state development plan, Kazakh aquaculture production is aiming to reach 270,000 tonnes per year by 2030. In addition, to this, Kazakhstan is looking to become a net exporter of fish, with the plan to deliver some 300,000 tonnes of products to neighbouring country markets, and for aquaculture to account for the lion’s share of that volume.

However, when the programme was made public, local players said the goals were “unrealistic”. They cited numerous systemic problems, like a lack of necessary infrastructure, low per capita fish consumption, and the administrative barriers that have been discouraging potential investors.

The government’s production plan envisaged 2022’s output near quadrupling to reach 22,700 tonnes, and to achieve this, in recent years, numerous ponds and lakes across the country have been re-registered to run aquaculture farms instead of commercial fishing. This, observers, have noted has only resulted in the volumes being shifted from one fish industry segment to another.

Under the existing rules, the registration of a water body as an area of commercial fishing restricts its production potential, explained Anastasia Markova, an analyst with local publication Kursiv. She told WF that enterprises are only allowed to catch 30% of fish in the water body, even if they have stocked it by 100%.

The transition untied farmers’ hands, helping them to scale up operations and this has brought much of the recent growth, Markova said, but added that beyond this, the industry has made little progress.

Similarly, she said the expanding state aid is yet to make a difference, and amid the economic and regulatory challenges, farmers continue to find it difficult to make ends meet.

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