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Reforms For Fish Industry

THAILAND - Shrimp welfare and social responsibility are among the important criteria in the revised Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) code drafted to secure Thailand's lucrative shrimp export industry.

The new GAP, revised from the 2003 version by the Fisheries Department, aims to raise export standards and ensure shrimp meet freshness requirements demanded by foreign buyers in recent years, said Pradit Chonchuenchob, the director of the department.

"Issues such as how to produce healthy shrimp with good welfare, environmentally sound farming, as well as no employment of either child or forced labour are fresh requests from importers that Thai farmers have to comply with," he told about 200 participants at a seminar.

Mr Pradit said that currently, more than 17,000 shrimp farms complied with international standards, basically the Code of Conduct of the Food and Agriculture, and the existing GAP.

"But to secure the future of an industry worth 80 billion baht and [overcome] barriers raised by foreign importers, farmers must work more," he said.

To ensure proper conditions for shrimp, farmers are allowed to farm no more than 150,000 post-larval shrimp per one-rai of pond area to raise shrimp in the size of 50-60 head per kilogramme. For a larger size or 40-50 per kg, the number of post-larval shrimp must be between 80,000 and 100,000 to avoid density and reduce stress.

Appropriate waste water treatment, no farming in mangrove areas and well-irrigated sites are among the 56 additional rules in the revised GAP, which took effect this year (2009).

The department will allow shrimp farms three years to adjust their operations to comply with the new GAP. "Big farms would have no problem but smaller ones may need time to change," Mr Pradit said.

Further revisions to cope with changing trade circumstances such as carbon emissions will be made in the standard.

"The new GAP would be a way to upgrade the Thai shrimp export industry to keep it ahead of rivals, notably Vietnam and Indonesia," said Varin Tanasomwang, director of the Coastal Fisheries Research and Development Bureau.

Improving marine shrimp farms and producing more hygienic shrimp to meet global standards are essential elements in the second strategic plan for the Thai shrimp industry from 2010 to 2012.

Over the next three years, Thailand plans to increase shrimp production by at least five per cent a year, with 525,000 tonnes in 2010, 551,000 tonnes in 2011, and 578,000 tonnes in 2012.

As economies of major importing countries remain uncertain, exports would expand slightly to about 375,000 tonnes next year, 380,000 tonnes in 2011, and 390,000 tonnes in 2012.

The plan also suggests Thai exporters balance markets and reduce dependence on any one by capping export volume to a single market at 45 per cent of the total. At present, the United States is the major importer of Thai shrimp and consumes 49-50 per cent of all shipments from Thailand.

the Fish Site Editor

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