Japanese ‘koi’ breeding thrives in the Philippines

FEATURE: Japanese ‘koi’ breeding thrives in the Philippines

CANDABA, the Philippines, April 15 Kyodo

The breeding of brightly colored Japanese ”koi” is making a big splash in the Philippines, drawing a growing number of Filipinos into the thriving ornamental fish culture business.

Local towns see the fast-growing industry as a potential dollar earner and are offering technical assistance and marketing support to breeders of the ornamental carp.

Prospects are bright for koi farming in this rustic town in Pampanga Province, about 60 kilometers north of Manila, according to town official Leonardo Manalo.

Koi are being raised in the town ”not only for their aesthetic beauty but also for their potential as a dollar earner,” he said, adding that town’s rich soil and dozens of swamps are is perfect for raising quality koi.

But koi farming is still a fledgling industry in this town that also produces rice, tilapia, duck eggs and sweet melons.

”There is still a lot of work to do in terms of developing the koi market linkage and networking with potential buyers and partners,” Manolo said. ”Koi farming can be an alternative business endeavor for fishpond operators who are experiencing overproduction of tilapia and low farm-gate prices.”

Manolo said the local government is forging ties with the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries for technical assistance and the Department of Trade and Industry for marketing the koi abroad.

Josephine De la Vega of the Bureau of Fish and Aquatic Resources said a tropical country like the Philippines is a perfect breeding ground for ornamental fish like koi, goldfish and guppies.

De la Vega said fish farming, or aquaculture, should be widely promoted, as there is a growing demand for koi and other pricey ornamental fish in the world market.

But she stressed the need to build the necessary infrastructure and to learn technical skills in breeding the pricey fish to meet international standards.

”It’s the only way to compete with countries that are into aquaculture like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and even Japan and China,” she said.

Liza Cunanan of the Department of Trade and Industry voiced hope the koi industry will flourish so that it will generate jobs, spur investments and boost sales not only in the region but in the country as a whole.

TCL-KOI-Candaba Fisheries is the largest koi breeder and producer in this town, devoting 35 hectares to koi farming.

Algier Hernandez, a breeder at the sprawling farm, told Kyodo News the fish farm can produce more than 100,000 quality koi a year.

The farm supplies koi to more than 1,000 pet stores in the capital, he said, raking in profit that can range from 400,000 pesos ($9,756) to a million pesos ($24,390) a month.

The farm, which started operating in 1994, plans to export koi to San Francisco in the United States in the coming months, he said.

The farm has 15 fish ponds and at least 10 concrete breeding tanks filled with thousands of gray koi fry. It takes three months to raise the fish before they can hit the market.

Buying prices ranges from 1,500 pesos ($36) for a 6-inch fish to 50,000 pesos ($1,219) for a 45-55 centimeter fish. The price tag can skyrocket to 500,000 pesos ($12,195).

”The prices depend on the texture and color of the fish,” Hernandez said.

Koi look similar to goldfish, but have two whiskery feelers at the corner of the mouth. They are also known as brocaded carp or ”nishikigoi” and have been dubbed ”living jewels.”

In China and Japan, koi symbolize strength and masculinity, and are often associated with good luck.

Known for their beautiful, bright colors and graceful glide in the water, koi have adorned Zen-inspired garden ponds for over 2,000 years. They come in orange, gold-yellow, silvery-white, black and blotchy varieties.

That is why commercial breeding of koi has proven to be lucrative, luring many Filipinos into the business.

”It’s fun looking at these colorful fish swimming around,” breeder Hernandez said.

He said families of cancer patients often go to the farm to buy koi, claiming the fish have calming effects on their sick.

”They say it’s therapeutic. It lightens their mood. They apparently forget their sufferings, even for just a few minutes.”

Tomas Llamas, owner of the fish farm, said koi can be trained to feed from the hand and do tricks. ”So koi breeding has a lot of potential. It’s a $2 billion industry, after all,” he said.

”They are family pets that have known to live in some Japanese ancestral ponds for generations,” Llamas said.

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