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Bangladesh Shrimp Exports Poised To Soar with U.S. Assistance

BANGLADESH - Bangladesh, working with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and several American companies, aims to increase its exports of shrimp fivefold in the coming five years.

Bangladesh Shrimp Exports Poised To Soar with U.S. Assistance - BANGLADESH - Bangladesh, working with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and several American companies, aims to increase its exports of shrimp fivefold in the coming five years.

Second only in value to its ready-made garment exports, shrimp exports from Bangladesh have been earning $300 million annually. Now a project funded by USAID has the potential to increase the value of shrimp exports fivefold to $1.5 billion by 2010.

The United States and the European Union (EU) each import 40 percent of the shrimp, with the remaining 20 percent going to Japan. Bangladesh is already among the top 10 exporters of shrimp in the world and accounts for some 3 percent of global production.

The project, known as Shrimp Seal of Quality (SSOQ), is a major part of the second phase of the Agro-based Industries and Technology Development Project (ATDP II) managed by the Louis Berger Group, a global consulting firm that won a $10-million contract from USAID in 2001. That contract has since been supplemented by a $5 million input from the Bangladesh government for mostly training purposes. Other project partners are Cargill Technical Services of Cargill Inc., an agribusiness company, and Land O Lakes, a dairy farm cooperative, both based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

ATDP II, scheduled to end in December, is providing technical assistance to selected agribusinesses dealing with shrimp, fish, poultry, livestock, grains, fruits and vegetables.

Set up in 2003, the $3-million SSOQ program aims to raise the volume and value of Bangladesh shrimp exports. This effort to impose uniform quality standards became necessary after the EU imposed a ban on Bangladesh shrimp imports in 1997 because of a failure to comply with EU quality regulations in shrimp processing plants in Khulna and Chittagong. At the same time, the Bangladesh government realized that up-to-date scientific methods were needed to maximize shrimp production for export.

A major thrust of the SSOQ program is to get rid of a wide-spread viral disease that has been responsible for declining production since the early 1990s of the marine shrimp known as Black Tiger, or Bagda, which dominates the export market. The other main variety of Bangladesh shrimp is actually a giant fresh water prawn known as Galda, which is immune to this viral disease. The Bagda proliferates in tidal basin areas along the Bay of Bengal coastline in brackish water, while the Galda can flourish farther inland in ponds.

The disease known as White Spot Syndrome Virus (WSSV) was detected through tests in a laboratory set up by the SSOQ program. The tests found the incidence of WSSV at over 70 percent.

Although WSSV is harmless to the human consumer, it cuts down shrimp production in the farms drastically. The laboratory in Coxs Bazar, at the southeastern tip of Bangladesh, screens shrimp fry, or larvae, for the disease from four designated hatcheries. The fry are then put in plastic bags of saline water and transported by air to designated nurseries in Khulna in the southwestern part of the country for storage. Then the mature larvae are distributed to shrimp farmers participating in the SSOQs Farm Management Program. So far, only 4 percent of the total larvae used in shrimp production are screened by this laboratory.

In addition to screening for WSSV, the SSOQ program seeks to put into practice shrimp farming techniques to improve yields, while decreasing the risk of the white spot virus spreading. Demonstration farms and field schools disseminate information about best management practices while providing training and consulting services to shrimp farmers.

Finally, the SSOQ, through its voluntary certification program, aims to assure buyers overseas that the Bangladesh shrimp industry has met international food safety standards, has addressed global environmental concerns, and has followed to international labor practices.

By adhering to international food safety standards, Bangladesh is able to assure overseas buyers that the shrimp are free from disease and harmful chemicals and additives that are sometimes used to reduce spoilage. Global environmental concerns address the depletion of valuable mangrove swamps brought about by indiscriminate shrimp farming. International labor standards include banning of child labor and ensuring fair treatment of seasonal workers.

The SSOQ program is a very holistic approach and it can serve as a model for certification of other exports such as fruits, vegetables and other fish. according to McDonald Homer, the team leader of Enterprise Development at the USAID Mission in Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital.

Homer stressed that the SSOQ program is a partnership between the private sector and the government of Bangladesh and that USAIDs role is that of a catalyst.

Louis Berger's Ron Gillespie, who heads the company's Agro-based Industries and Technology Development Project in Bangladesh said the SSOQ program is part of a broader effort in Bangladesh to raise the quality of food produced in the country.

According to Gillespie, the focus on seafood has come at the right time for Bangladesh. Compared with other shrimp-exporting countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, Bangladesh has a comparative advantage in cheap labor and ample water resources that will stand in good stead in the future if the shrimp export market tightens, he said.

According to Quazi Kudrat-e- Kabir, SSOQs regional director in Khulna, Bangladesh, the shrimp industry benefits three to four million mostly poor Bangladeshis while providing livelihood directly to 142,000 farming households numbering some 600,000 people. Kabir said that over 200,000 hectares are now under shrimp farming.

By the end of the project in December, Kabir expects over 300 shrimp farmer field schools to sustain the program with 20 technicians trained to provide management advice to the farmers. SSOQ demonstration farms have already produced shrimp yields three to five times the national average yield of 350 kilograms per hectare, Kabir said.

He added that the U.S. Red Lobster chain of restaurants has contracted to buy the first batch of SSOQ program-produced shrimp. The chains parent company, Darden Restaurants, Inc. headquartered in Orlando, Florida, is already the largest U.S. importer of Bangladesh shrimp.

Source: U.S. Department of State - 11th August 2005

the Fish Site Editor

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