Whiteleg Shrimp Conference

The white letg shrimp planning in the Mekong Delta should be amended was what echoed by administrators, businesses and farmers during the Whiteleg Shrimp Conference in SOc Trang last April. 

How much whiteleg shrimp being produced in the Mekong Delta?
According to MARD, total whiteleg shrimp production in 2010 was 135,000MT. Its export value hit US$414.6 million, claiming 20% of the shrimp export and 8% of total seafood export of Viet Nam. Despites its important role, the species was not allowed to be farmed in the Mekong Delta until 2008. And so far, whiteleg shrimp farming is still a controlled industry in Viet Nam.
Dr. Ho Quoc Luc, Chairman of VASEP Shrimp Committee (VSC) and CEO of FIMEX said the shrimp processing plants in Soc Trang – a province with modest number of shrimp processors compared to others in Mekong Delta, particularly Ca Mau – alone gobbled up 50 tons of whiteleg shrimp each day.
However, the reports made by local authorities seemed to present very scanty figures on the whiteleg shrimp farming area and production. For example, Soc Trang planning area for whiteleg shrimp farming wound up at 2.500ha. However, since 2008, the actual stocking area and production have been merely 140- 160 ha and 1,000-1,200 tons. Similarly, Ca Mau had 10,821 ha of planning area for the shrimp farming but the real figure in 2010 was only 200 ha and 2,000 tons. Even Bac Lieu province – one of the pioneers in whiteleg shrimp farming – reported only 158 ha of shrimp farming area in 2010.
Where was the shrimp farmed?
Is it true that farmers in the Mekong Delta do not want to rear whiteleg shrimp? “No” was the answer that came from Mr Nguyen Van Nhiem, Chairman of My Thanh Shrimp Alliance.
“At the time being, both black tiger and whiteleg shrimp farming are profitable. With many years involved in shrimp farming, we are in the right mind enough to stick to black tiger. However, when the weather is so bad like this year, disease outbreak will occur. If we rear whiteleg shrimp, we can still recoup the investment after 1.5 month of farming since the species is still sellable at count 200 (individuals per kg). If it is black tiger shrimp, we can not sell them before 2.5 months of farming. Besides, if the black tiger crop fails halfway and there is no time to restock the juveniles, we will have to change to whiteleg shrimp in order not to let the ponds idle,” said Nhiem.
It can be figured out that whiteleg shrimp is still intensely farmed in the Mekong Delta, except the fact that many farms are located outside the planning areas.
So why are the farmers not excited about farming shrimp in the planning area? Perhaps, it is because of the regulation that requires whiteleg shrimp farming areas to be kept apart from the back tiger ones. As such, the provincial authorities tended to select the areas that are not fit for black tiger farming to allocate for whiteleg shrimp farmers. These areas often have poor infrastructure and the residents are still amateurs in industrial shrimp farming. The experienced and well-to-do farmers would not choose to invest there, but unplanned area.
It was suggested that MARD and local authorities should revise the planning and improve management so that intensive whiteleg shrimp farming can also take place in the black tiger area without increasing the risk of cross-infection.
Are there risks associated with whiteleg shrimp farming?
Before, MARD banned the farming of whiteleg shrimp over the concern that they may transmit Taura syndrome virus (TSV) to black tiger shrimp. However, Mr. Tran Huu Mai of My Thanh Shrimp Alliance rejected such idea.  “I have raised whiteleg shrimp for several years and all I saw was that my sick whiteleg shrimp had the same diagnostic symptoms as back tiger one, not the other way round,” said Mai.
Dr Bui Quang Te, former Head of Aquaculture Diseases Division (Research Institute for Aquaculture No.1) echoed Mai’s opinion, saying that his Institute’s research since 2003 downplayed the possibility of black tiger shrimp being infected with TSV. In fact, China, Thailand and some other whiteleg shrimp producers have never experienced the outbreak of TSV.
It is stipulated that whiteleg shrimp juveniles should be disease-free. However, infected ponds are still rampant and shrimp exhibit slow growth rate. Mr. Duong Tien The, Vice Director of Aquaculture Department under the Directorate of Fisheries said the poorly-equipped facilities, inadequate farming techniques and incomplete isolation of whiteleg shrimp ponds from black tiger had increased the risks of disease spread. Besides, the fraudulent use of domesticated growth-out shrimp as broodstock often degrades the next generation quality as well as the pathogen-free trait.
Many participants questioned the regulation that requires whiteleg shrimp hatchery to produce at least 500 million PL a year, which means huge investment involved. Meanwhile, the capacity of most of the hatcheries in the region is less than 200 million PL per year. Such gap gave rise to the black market in the Mekong Delta. Nhiem said many small hatcheries operated illegally. Some of them even maliciously sell PL6-8 instead of the required PL10-12 and thereby invalidating the pathogen tests. These juveniles quickly die on mass scale when the weather changed or when the disease outbreak occurs, incurring huge loss to farmers.
Antibiotics and chemicals can be avolded in shrimp farming
The use of banned chemicals and antibiotics, particularly trifluralin is also a hot issue raised during the conference. According to the Centre of Aquaculture Experimenting, Verifying, and Controlling under D-Fish, after MARD’s Circular No. 20/2010/TT-BNNPTNT on the list of medicines, chemicals and antibiotics banned or limited from usage came into effect, some products containing trifluralin still sneaked their way through the local distribution channels. Many farmers, either too innocent or too greedy, still use these products. As a result, trifluralin residue continued to be detected in a few shrimp shipments of Viet Nam to Japan.
Although the scientists, including Dr. Ly Thi Thanh Loan and Dr. Bui Quang Te and some veterinary drug suppliers introduced several antibiotics and chemicals with the same effect as trifluralin to the users, most of the products had not been thoroughly tested in different farming models. Moreover, many said that they are not the final answer to the problem because the importers may change their list of banned chemicals or the maximum residue levels unexpectedly.
The participants seemed to be more enthusiastic toward the idea of using effective bio-products in shrimp farming and environment management instead of antibiotics and chemicals. Several enterprises introduced clean shrimp farming models based on these products during the conference, including the Truc Anh Co., Ltd. The results were reported to be very promising. However, these enterprises were recommended to further reduce the price of their bio-products to be able to compete with the much cheaper antibiotics and chemicals.
Certainly, whiteleg shrimp farming will continue to be an important source of income for the Mekong delta residents if the use of banned antibiotics chemicals is thoroughly controlled by the government and the products thereof are boycotted by the processors.
And clean shrimp farming practices based on recognized standards such as FAO BAP or GlobalG.A.P or even the up-and-coming VietGAP will surely drive the shrimp industry in Mekong Delta toward achieving the projected US$3 billion/year in export value in no time.
Source: Vietfish Internatioal
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