Bangladesh can bet big on its black tiger prawns

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GSA Chairman Dr George Chamberlain told The FE in an exclusive interview







Exports of fish products from Bangladesh, which mainly depends on the shrimp industry, started to experience a steady decline from FY 2013-14 with a drastic drop in shipments which persisted until the end of 2013-14. exercise 21.

Although exports showed a 24% recovery in the just ended financial year (FY’22) compared to that of FY’21, problems still exist that cast a shadow over future potential.

Exports from Bangladesh fell to $328 million in FY 2020-21 from $530 million in FY 2013-14.

“The problem might exist, but it might be solved as the production and shipment of prawns could be increased more than three times in Bangladesh through the adoption of modern and climate-smart farming methods,” said the chairman of the Global Seafood Alliance (GSA), Dr. George Chamberlain, at FE. interview last month.

Dr Chamberlain, who is also President of the Center for Responsible Seafood (TCRS), traveled to Bangladesh July 21-25 to interact with local shrimp and seafood industries and farms, participate in various seminars and symposia and meet government officials and researchers.

The GSA, in collaboration with the Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation (BSFF), provided initial assistance to the Department of Fisheries (DoF) to implement the “Sustainable Coastal and Marine Fisheries Project (SCMFP) which aims to attract investment and promote exports.

During the interview, the GSA Chairman said that many countries have already experienced declines in shrimp production due to different reasons, especially disease outbreaks.

Taiwan experienced such a decline in the 1980s, China in the 1990s due to the white spot syndrome virus, and most Asian countries experienced severe declines due to a bacterial disease known as “white spot syndrome”. early mortality” between 2011 and 2013.

“The good news is that there is no such crisis in Bangladesh because of these diseases,” he said.

Chamberlain pointed out that despite the absence of such a crisis, production declined in Bangladesh while at the same time it increased rapidly in India and Ecuador.

He said the reason for Bangladesh’s production decline could be attributed to its inherent inefficiency in production.

The major challenge here is that the sector is made up of thousands of very small traditional farmers who can only supply a few kilos a day, while processors need tonnes.

This creates many stages of intermediaries to aggregate the product.

The presence of many intermediaries increases costs, delays transit time and compromises quality, he said.

Other challenges exist in fragmentation, lack of quality brood, quality PL, quality feed and modern cold chain management from farm to factory level.

The fundamental requirement in the sector is to organize small farms into cooperatives like clusters to achieve economies of scale, enable transfer to technology and training, and start transforming the value chain, he said. -he declares.

He added that the clusters will have their own trading centers from which processors could source their required quantity at a time.

And the production of these smallholder farmers could access major international markets by enrolling the clusters in aquaculture improvement programs that would lead to eventual certification under international sustainability guidelines, Chamberlain said.

He added that the production could be increased to almost 1000 kg or 1.0 ton per hectare from less than 300 kg now by adopting such sustainable agriculture.

He said 1000 kg per hectare would be a reasonable and sustainable target given the changing climatic conditions.

To achieve this goal, the infrastructure of the sector must start to develop comprehensively and steadily, he observed.

He emphasized the use of specific pathogen-free or SPF broodstock of black tiger prawns for sustainable farming instead of just wild stocks.

He informed the EF that two hatcheries have started operating in Bangladesh to market post-larvae of SPF broodstock: MK Hatchery in Cox’s Bazaar and Pronti Group.

He said wild broodstock have a high probability of being infected with disease and give 25% survival rates in ponds, while SPF post-larvae are expected to give 60-70% survival in ponds.

The growth rate of SPF is also 25% faster than that of wild breeders due to selective breeding, he said.

For SPF broodstock, marine worms called polychaetes are a key part of the diet, helping to stimulate maturation and spawning.

These polychaetes were imported from Thailand and are now sustainably bred in Bangladesh. The SPF could also extend a feed backlink, he said.

Asked about the recent enthusiasm for farming vannamei, he said it could be another important alternative, but most of the shrimp ponds in Bangladesh are traditional units which would be most suitable for farming at low density of black tiger prawns.

At low densities, black tiger prawns grow very rapidly to large sizes that fetch high prices.

“Certainly vannamei’s production performance is exceptional, especially when it comes to high-density production methods, but it requires much greater investment in infrastructure such as pumping, aeration, coatings plastic and vending machines. Also, the market price of vannamei in a highly competitive market is much lower,” he said.

He said dozens of farms in India and Vietnam have again switched to vannamei black tiger.

Bangladesh should conduct market research before going to large-scale vannamei, he added.

The GSA chairman said that apart from prawns, Bangladesh has great potential as well as investment opportunities in sea bass, mud crab, seaweed, etc.

Aquatic inputs and live food productions could also attract good investment, he said.

Asked about investment and marketing, Chamberlain said working with the GSA could help Bangladeshi companies explore the global market.

He added that the GSA is developing links between the Bangladeshi private sector and global buyers.

Bangladesh participated in Seafood Expo Global in Barcelona Spain and Sea Food Expo North America in Boston USA this year.

He said buyers in Europe, North America and Japan were ready to source the black tiger from Bangladesh.

The Bangladeshi seafood sector should also be prepared enough to deliver the required products on time, he added.

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