15 Feb Vietnam going big on shrimp farming
The Vietnam government has announced plans to invest heavily in perfecting the country’s intensive shrimp farming operations and expand production significantly over the next few years.
To accomplish the goal, the country will dig new ponds and expand the hectarage devoted to shrimp production that it already operates by reducing its rice harvest, principally in the Mekong Delta, said Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong.
The Government made the decision to place all future bets on shrimp farming following a rice harvest in 2016 that was devastated by the rising salinity of the Mekong River in 2016.
In the lower reaches of the Mekong Delta, saltwater has penetrated inland as far as 60 kilometres, according to meteorologists, killing crops and shuttering family farms, eliminating thousands of rural jobs.
Longer-term, the Government is convinced that the shrimp farming business can compete on more equitable terms with the country’s other more profitable agriculture production.
The increasing salinity may be bad for rice farmers but it is great for those in the shrimp business.
Minister Cuong noted the gross revenue of the country’s shrimp farmers from exports last year surpassed that of rice, making it the second-largest agricultural export for 2016, after coffee.
Government officials in the Mekong Delta and other coastal areas have been working to assist rice farmers make the transition to cultivating shrimp that will affect tens of millions in the Mekong Delta alone.
Minister Cuong noted the global market for shrimp has been steadily increasing over the past few years and that the market demand is such that country would be able to safely expand shrimp farming to encompass some one million hectares from the 700,000 hectares now under cultivation.
In addition, he said Government officials will work on introducing better-quality strains of shrimp and improving farming techniques. His target is to expand shrimp production to an average of eight metric tons per hectare.
Intensive shrimp farms can hold a density of up to 220 shrimp per square metre, compared with only 180 for semi-intensive farms, resulting in an annual yield of 10 tons, versus 5 tons per hectare using the semi-intensive method.
If one were to run the math, annual gross revenues of US$10 billion from shrimp exports is very doable, said Minister Cuong.
The weather in the Mekong Delta is most suitable for shrimp and is the motivating factor in making the decision to transition away from rice. The current weather oscillations are just too much for rice.