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Research report: Aquaculture in transition

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Rapid growth in Myanmar’s fish farming industry is supporting higher rural incomes, greater job opportunities, and improved nutrition, health and well-being, according to research by the Centre for Economic and Social Development (CESD), Michigan State University (MSU) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Aquaculture01The USAID-funded research challenged many existing perceptions of the industry, including the conversion of rice paddy land to fish farms, and the perception of the industry as sluggish, unproductive and focused largely on the export market.

Fish is of fundamental importance to food and nutrition security in Myanmar, as it is a major source of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), which are particularly important for child development. Fish is also an important part of household food budgets in Myanmar, with nearly as much money spent on fish (14% of food expenditure) as on rice (19% of food expenditure). The fish farming industry also provides rural employment, with the harvesting of fish for transport to market requiring roughly twice as many person days of work per acre than rice paddy farming. Some fish farming operations are also potentially more profitable than alternative forms of agriculture, with commercial fish farm nurseries able to generate an estimated 5-10 times more income than that produced by mango or rice paddy farming.

Rapid growth in the fish farming industry is evidenced by an estimated 250% increase in fish farm output from the Delta region over the past ten years. The land area for ponds in the Delta area, which accounts for 90% of Myanmar’s farmed fish, is also estimated to have doubled. The fish farming industry has also supported the rapid growth of a variety of related businesses and services, including pond digging services, feed mills, ice manufacturing, rural transport and urban wholesale markets.

The research undertaken by CESD, MSU and IFPRI examined the strong growth of the industry, and the industry’s contribution to raising rural wages. It also looked at obstacles to growth, and provides recommendations to deliver greater and more inclusive rural growth. Recommendations included better access to formal credit for fish farmers, fewer restrictions on land use, and increased private investment and competition in the fish feed sector.

Policy recommendations to support the growth of the fish farming sector are as follows:

  • Fewer restrictions on land use (patchy “informal” relaxation of regulations has led to uneven development, high transaction costs and a risky investment climate).
  • Better access to formal credit for fish farmers and other small and medium enterprises in the value chain.
  • Increased private investment and competition in the feed sector (to bring down cost to the farmer and improve quality).
  • Greater development of ‘hard’ infrastructure (roads, electricity and water control to increase efficiencies along the supply chain).
  • Public investments in seed production technologies for promising species (building upon past successes in this area to encourage technological and product diversification for farmers).
  • More development of ‘soft’ infrastructure (human capital, extension and veterinary services, to support more responsive public and private service provision for farmers in areas such as disease control).

The research was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and financial assistance from the Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT), supported by Australia, Denmark, the European Union, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the Mitsubishi Corporation.

Publication name: Research report #4: Aquaculture in transition: value chain transformation, fish and food security in Myanmar

Author(s): Ben Belton, Aung Hein, Kyan Htoo, L. Seng Kham, Ulrike Nischan, Thomas Reardon, and Duncan Boughton

Supported by: USAID, Michigan State University, and International Food Policy Research Institute

Publication date: December 2015

Language(s): English

Download the full report from the following link:

Download an accompanying policy brief from the following links:





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