Like other sectors of the economy, fish farming in Swat has started to flourish once again.
With crystal-clear springs in abundance, the valley is well-known for its high quality fish, especially rainbow trout. Having a huge demand due to the rich taste of trout, fish farming attracted tourists in droves in the past.
However, the sector dealt a severe blow during the Taliban insurgency in Swat valley which brought down tourism to a dead low in 2007. To make things worse, the floods which followed in 2010 swept away 16 trout farms in the valley, breaking the backbone of what was left of the fisheries.
“Our farms were washed away and business remained closed for about two years. Now we have rebuilt our farms and the sector has started to thrive again,” said Amjad Ali, a private fish farm worker in Chail Madyan, who has remained in the business for over 20 years. It usually takes 18 months before the fish can be sold, said Ali, adding that the first produce for the year is ready for sale.
While the fish were being sold at Rs1,800 per kilogram (kg) during the floods, following the rehabilitation of farms and provision of fertilizers by USAID, the production has increased manifold and the price has dropped to Rs1,000 per kg.
“It has a huge demand. The tourists who come here don’t return unless they’ve had a taste of trout,” remarked Ali, adding that around 10,000 kg of fish is sold every day during peak season, while the sale remains half even in off-season.
Asked why trout is more delicious compared to other species, he said, “Trouts are carnivores while other fish found in Swat are mostly herbivores. Besides, the temperature in Swat also plays a role in its rich taste, as trout cannot dwell in waters above 19 degrees centigrade.”
He went on to explain that the fish are given a special feed to make them delicious, which, according to Amjad, costs Rs60,000 to 70,000 a week for a farm having 40,000 fish.
“A trip to Swat is incomplete without having trout. I would recommend anyone visiting Swat to give it a try at least one,” said Mrs Jawad, a tourist from Lahore buying trout from a local farm.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2012.