Carps in Myanmar

The export-oriented carp industry in Myanmar developed rapidly since the late 1990’s. The industry is dominated by large vertically integrated companies, such as Htun Nay Linn and Min Zar Ni, that invested in farming, next to hatcheries and processing facilities. The production focused on Indian carp (Labeo rohita,¬† or referred to as Rohu) accounted for more than 70% of the total production. This was in combination with other species, such as common carp, grass carp, mrigal, catla, tilapia and pangasius. At the peak, there were more than 80 exporters exporting Indian carp. The main markets were the Bengali population, both in the region and other parts of the world. Unfortunately, this market could not absorb the rapid increase in production, while other markets appeared to be non-receptive for carps. As a result, the market collapsed and exports fell drastically since 2007. So far, the market has not recovered. The sector now calls for investments to enable a transition to more intensive production of tilapia. This fish is wider appreciated, both in local and export markets, and has a shorter production cycle in addition. That is six months instead of two years for export sizes. The Myanmar Fisheries Federation desires to build a tilapia sector that can compete with the large origins for tilapia, such as China and Vietnam. This page focuses on the export-oriented carp sector.

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Sourcing news

Production and export statistics

Species wise production

Source: FAO (2018)

Indian carp (Labeo rohita, or Rohu) is the most important species produced in polyculture systems with multiple other species such as grass and common carp, mrigal, catla and tilapia. Although the export market for Rohu has collapsed, the total production volume has been stable over the years. The FAO statistics on the production volume may be overestimated, yet the trend that production

continues to increase is confirmed by other sources in Myanmar.

Further increase of production of freshwater fish from aquaculture are expected from innovations, such as the introduction of monosex tilapia in ponds and cages and the introduction of other species, including climbing perch in irrigation channels. The production of Indian carp is expected to remain stable.

State wise production area (acres)

Source: DoF (2017)

Commercial fish farming is concentrated in Ayeyarwady and Yangon. The fish farming area is expected to remain stable unless the government will make it easier for farmers to change their land use from rice culture to fish culture. In many cases rice and fish culture can be combined. However at the moment in many areas this is not allowed by

government regulations. Policy reform would require action from the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries and the Ministry of Agriculture.

It is also expected that fish farming in the Central Dry Zone, in the middle of the country, will increase significantly with the introduction of tilapia and other easy to culture fish species in the coming years. Production can increase in ponds, cages in rivers and lakes and also in irrigation canals.

Cultured carps export markets

Trade Map (2018), International Trade Centre, Please note that this figure shows mirror data.

The figure is based on export data of frozen whole fish from Myanmar (HS0303), which mainly includes the exports of carps, catfishes and tilapias. However, a significant volume may be excluded from the

figure, as border trade with Bangladesh and China may be left out in the reported numbers. According to Trademap's direct data, Myanmar exported 2,031 tonnes of whole, frozen fish in 2015, 12,678 tonnes in 2016 and 115,393 in 2017, although 2015 and 2017 are estimated by the UNSD. These figures differ tremendously with mirror data shown in the graph, although Trademap does indicate that Myanmar has reported their export data for the last 5 years.

Figures from the Fishery Statistics yearbook 2017 from the DoF report that total fish exports reached a 290,580 MT or 319 mln US$, and mainly went to Thailand (168,426 MT), China (31,409 MT), Saudi Arabia (20,756 MT) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

According to Trademap data, the Middle East (ME) is an important export market responsible for more than 50% of the total volume. The two main importing countries in the ME are Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The UAE have not reported yet their import volumes for 2017, but in 2016 their imports reached 15,862 which is a stable import figure for the last four years. The United Kingdom is another main market. In both the Middle East as the UK live significant Bengali communities. The export of fresh fish (HS302) was 193,630 tonnes in 2016 according to direct data (145,995 tonnes mirror data), with the majority going to Thailand. 2017 mirror data shows an increase to 206,720 tonnes, almost all going to Thailand. Thailand is home to a lot of migrant workers coming from Myanmar.

In some cases, Bangladeshi traders are involved in exporting freshwater fish from Myanmar through representative offices. They use these offices to export directly to markets abroad, or to export to Bangladesh for reprocessing and re-exporting to both domestic and global markets.

Export products in 2016 (tonnes)

Trade Map (2017), International Trade Centre, Please note that this figure shows mirror data.

Figures from the Fishery Statistics yearbook 2017 from the DoF indicate that Rohu and Hilsa were the main exported cultured species, with 53,092 MT and 12,003 MT respectively. Exports of Indian carp,

catfishes and tilapia currently mainly consist of fresh and frozen whole fish. The fish is cleaned, gutted, chilled or blast frozen and mostly individually packed into master cartons. Smaller fish might be block frozen and sold as mixed fish blocks. The main sizes of Indian carps [read-more]exported are between one and three kg. For example, one of the exporters who sold a total of 4.350 tonnes of Indian carp, 585 tonnes (13%) was between 1 and 1.5 kg, 1550 tonnes (35%) was between 1.5 and 2 kg, and 2020 tonnes (46%) was between 2 and 3 kg per fish. Only 220 tonnes (5%) were larger than 3kg.

Although there is a market demand for larger sized Indian carp, farmers are reluctant to grow above three kg. The production cycle increases significantly as it will take about six months to add another kilogram, while the market price does not weigh up against the additional costs.

Production systems


    Throughout the Ayeyarwady delta there are large-scale fish farms. Farms consist of multiple ponds of limited depth where about four to eight different species of fish are grown. *more coming soon*


    Some of the large-scale fish farms apply a traditional Chinese model in which chicken and duck is kept in pavilions above the fish pond. *more coming soon*


    Smaller-scale farmers tend to mix the culture of carps and other freshwater fish with the culture of rice and/or freshwater prawns. *more coming soon*

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Risk assessment

Environmental risks

  • Water use
  • Escapees

Social risks

  • Land-grabbing
  • Use of labor brokers

Quality and supply chain risks

  • Long transport times for small scale farmers
  • Lack of quality ¬†management in auctions

Species in Myanmar

Click on the species and find out more about the species in Myanmar