Salahuddin Haider

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 – A GROUP of ex-Navy officers of the ranks of admirals and commodores have initiated a small-level, almost a pilot project near Gharo to promote shrimp culture, which has shown encouraging results but needs patronage, both from the government, and private investors.

Located in Thatta district, and way into inside near the sea creek , the project can best be described as a bold initiative and a drive that should, with the passage of time, may become a national asset. Fisheries, has ancient history, dating back to thousands of years, and since Karachi too is blessed with sea, it already has a huge fish harbor neat West Wharf.

Thousands of boats sail into the deep sea every morning on voyages, lasting from two to five days, and bring home a catch, which apart from serving private houses, also is a matter of pride for restaurants, eating houses, clubs and commercial ventures. Fish and shrimps of small, medium, and large-sizes, have enormous export market.

What has, unfortunately been lacking, is the orientation towards hygienic environment, that often becomes a minus for the industry and the country, in dire need to develop its exports, but somehow, has been victim of neglect and ineptness.

By sheer dint of chance, I had the privilege of meeting the head of the Pakistan Navy flotilla in Karachi, called COMKAR ( commander, Karachi), Vice Admiral Arifullah Hussaini few days ago. He invited me on Sunday to join a group of eminent entrepreneurs, multi-national chief, and others to accompany him to the shrimp farm, run by ex-Navy officers. The convoy driving all the way from Karachi, included former vice-chief of staff, PN, Vice Admiral Asaf Humayun, who now runs a National Centre for Maritime Policy Research, Commodore Sohail Ahmad, CSO to COMKAR, entrepreneurs like Noman Abid, who apart from being the founder chancellor of BIZTEK University, is also in construction business, Arif and his partner, owning 30 fishing boats, and in construction business, well known Sindh agriculturist Jam Farouk Ali, Syed Mazhar, chief executive of SGS inspection multinational, Muhammad Shahid, Director at the City Institute of Image Manangement, and several others.

The ex-Navy officers, grouped in an enterprise called SENOR, includes Vice Admiral (rtd) Irfan Ahmad, Comodore(rtd) Rasheedullah, looking after the project and three more. Following the pattern of private-public partnership, they have acquired on lease four of the ten ponds, working under the Fisheries Development Board of the federal government, and are blessed with commitment and dedication to develop shrimp culture, something which in the past has seen mere failures. But these Navy men somehow managed to secure considerable quantity of larva from Thailand, and have hired a Filipino expert with experience of developing shrimp culture, in a number of countries.

Risky it may appear from production and marketing point of view, but where there is will, there is way. That has been the guiding motto for these ex-Navy officers. They have succeeded in producing shrimp of 15 grams so far, but hope to raise its weight to 22 gram so that it really is larger in size, and an attraction for home and foreign markets. Starting on 5th July, they have been rewarded with substantial success within three months of launching their venture.

Like any other industry, or business venture, they have too their problems. Fish meals availability, its prices, the melt down in foreign market of shrimp prices and many other commodities by almost 50 percent, are some of their major worries.Commodore (rtd) Rasheedullah felt strongly that fish meal industry ought to be set up in the country, because imports are often a liability. But they have eyes on UAE, Middle-Eastern, and European markets for exporting the products they have been trying to harness. Hygiene and environmental problem, haunting the Karachi Fish Harbour, luckily has spared the group of its harmful effects.

In fact, the projects is blessed with a wind from the creek, that has been helpful to them. However electricity, and much needed oxygen, generated through machines on the spot, if taken care of by the authorities, would lessen their burden substantially. The Fisheries Development Board must look into these problems on urgent basis.

The patronage provided by COMKAR, to the project of his former colleagues, was indeed heart-warming. Admiral Arifullah is a generous and jovial personality, and so were the officers and men attached to him.

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