Pangasius: A flagship project of Rizal Province
Last December 28, a Pangasius Food Festival was held at the Las Brisas Resort in Antipolo City as part of a program in Rizal to make more people aware of the fish that the Philippines has been importing in big volumes from Vietnam. This is the Pangasius, a much bigger relative of catfish, which is now served in many restaurants as Cream Dory fish. Its white meat is fine textured, tasty, andwith very pleasing flavour.
The event was highlighted by a talk on the business possibilities of producing Pangasius as a flagship product of the province of Rizal. The other highlight was the presentation of different pangasius dishes prepared by chefs of well known restaurants in Rizal and a Korean restaurant in Makati.
The food festival was under the auspices of teh Department of trade and industry of Rizal. The Philippine chamber of Commerce and industry, the bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic resources Tanay Research Station, the provincial government of Rizal , and theSt. Martha farm of Teresa town.
Dr. Aida Palma, the fisheries expert from the BFART Tanay Research Station, said that Pangasius is an ideal fish species that many fish farmers in Rizal can produce profitably. It is a fast growing species that will attain one kilo of body weight in a culture period of six months. It can be grown in freshwater ponds, fishcages, and fishpens. It is a very hardy fish that will tolerate even not-so-ideal water conditions. It can be fed with natural foods in the water and farm wastes such as vegetable and fruit trimmings. Of course, it could also be fed with commercial feeds.
It is just right that Rizal should take the lead in commercializing the production of Pangasius because the biggest source of Pangasius fingerlings is located in Rizal- the St. Martha farm of Gen. Jewel Canson and wife Cecile in Teresa town. The Cansons are about the biggest producers of Pangasius fingerlings today. They supply fingerlings to farmes as far as South Cotabato and other provinces int he south. Aside from fingerlings production the Cansons also have a grow-out operation.
Mercedes Parreno, head of the DTI in Rizal, early saw the potential of Pangasius production as a source of livelihood for farmers and entreprenmeurs in the province . And their program is to link together all the stakeholders in the industry such as the source of the fingerlings to the farmers who will grow them. At the same time, the growers have to be linked to the market that includes the public markets, the restaurants, and other institutions that will need the fish.
Aside from providing livelihood to the farmers, local production of the fish will enable the country to save precious dollars that would otherwise be used to import Pangasius fillet in Vietnam. Dr. Aida Palma said taht they found that as many as 5,000 to 6,000 tons of Pangasius fillet are imported monthly from Vietnam.
As part of the marketing promotion of the concerned agencies in Rizal, live Pangasius was launched among fish vendors in the Taytay public market last December 18. Mercy Parreno said that the market vendors have to be aware of the fish that could eventually become a bestseller for them.
At the same time, however, there has to be a sustained program of teaching the farmers to culture Pangasius so that the supply to the markets could be sustained. In this connection, Dr. Palma said that the Tanay Research Station is conducting free training for farmers every Thursday. After the training, the farmers are also provided with initial fingerlings for their projects. For instance, the farmers are given 500 fingerlings good for a 100-square-meter fishpond. The fingerlings could grow into half ton of meat in 6 to 7 months. At 80 per kilo live , that would be a fortune for the farmer from just 100 square meter of pond.
Meanwhile, the attendees in the Pangasius Food Festival enjoyed sampling the various Pangasius dishes prepared by the chefs. One of our favourites is the kilawin prepared by Balaw Balaw restaurant of Angono. And Ragubir Singh who resides in Antipolo prepared Indian cuisine with Pangasius. Susan Hassig who traces her roots from France, on the other hand, prepared dishes flavoured with herbs. Ther were a number of other preparations that included sinigang, paksiw sa gata, baked with potatoes and other ingredients, grilled pangasius and more.
Actually, there are so many other ways that the Pangasius could be prepared. It could be served in high-end restaurants as well as in more humble establishments. Pangasius fillet, infact, is used in making sandwiches in some well known fst-food chains. The fish is well liked by both the young and adults. And that is the reason why Dr. Aida Palma, Mercy Parreno and Gen. Jewel Canson are so optimistic about the great potential of this fish in the Philippine market.
Source: Panorama, By: Zac B. Sarian