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White Shrimp, the Redoubtable Rival of Vietnams Black Tiger Shrimp

VIET NAM - Several importers have turned their backs on Vietnams black tiger shrimp, while shifting to purchase white shrimp (Peneus Vannamei) which have softer prices.

Vietnam’s black tiger shrimp losing market

White shrimp

Tran Thi Mieng, Deputy Director of the Planning and Investment Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), said that Vietnam’s black tiger shrimp now has a very strong competitor, white shrimp. At several international trade fairs, importers canceled the orders on importing Vietnam’s black tiger shrimp to purchase white shrimp from Thailand and China.

The traditional markets for Vietnam’s shrimp like Japan and the US now also consume white shrimp, while this kind of shrimp has also become the first choice of many restaurants.

According to Associate Prof Dr Nguyen Huu Dung, Deputy Chairman of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), black tiger shrimp once dominated the world’s market, because the Asian white shrimp at that time had low output and unstable supply. However, the situation has become quite different: the quality of white shrimp now is the same as black tiger shrimp, while the price is ‘softer’. As the result, Vietnam’s black tiger shrimp is in danger of being weeded out from import contracts.

In the US, importers do not tell the difference between black tiger or white shrimp, they pay in accordance of shrimp size: higher price for bigger shrimp. Meanwhile, there is no considerable gap between the price of black tiger and white shrimp of the same sizes, said Mr Dung.

It is clear that it is more profitable to hatch white shrimp than black tiger. In Thailand, the country’s farmers now hatch white shrimp for the 7th generation (beginning the white shrimp hatchery in 2001), free from diseases. In 2006, Thailand exported 400,000 tonnes of white shrimp, 98% of total output.

After many years of raising white shrimp in the trial basis, Thailand now can control the process of shrimp culture. Especially, Thai farmers have been succeeded in raising large-size white shrimp, even bigger than black tiger shrimp, which has helped them gain bigger market share thanks to the competitive price, 10-15% cheaper than black tiger shrimp.

Besides, white shrimp hatcheries can bring high output, 25-30 tonnes/ha, which allows 2-3 times the profit of a black tiger hatchery.

Experts said that Vietnamese exporters need to diversify their shrimp export products, otherwise, they will lose a lot of markets. VASEP has proposed MARD to set up the programme on developing white shrimp hatcheries in Vietnam, and reconsider the instruction on banning white shrimp hatcheries in Mekong River Delta provinces, released before.

MARD too cautious?

White shrimp will decide the world’s shrimp output
Returning from Goal (Global Outlook for Aquaculture Leadership 2007), held earlier this month in Madrid, Spain, Dr Nguyen Huu Dung said that the report by Dr James Anderson showed that the growth rate of the world’s shrimp hatcheries would depend totally on the white shrimp.

Especially, the development of the white shrimp hatcheries in Asia will play the decisive role.

In 2001-2006, the output of white shrimp in Asia jumped to 1.5-1.6mil tonnes in 2006, and the figure is expected to reach 1,8mil tonnes in 2009. The total white shrimp output now accounts for 2/3 of the world’s shrimp output.

Thailand, India, China, the Philippines and Indonesia are now the white shrimp producers.

The former Ministry of Fisheries in 2003 banned the white shrimp post production, and the white shrimp hatchery together with black tiger. In 2006, the ministry prohibited white shrimp hatcheries in Mekong River Delta provinces, but allowed farmers to raise this kind of shrimp in the provinces from Quang Ninh to Binh Thuan.

The ministry released the ban for fear for the failure in controlling illegal imports of parents and post shrimps through border gates. In 2004, 56% of white shrimp were imported from China to Quang Ninh which then were dispersed to many other provinces.

Recently, realizing the high demand for white shrimp, one household has been trying to raise white shrimp, and has been successful, gaining 15 tonnes of shrimp from one hectare.

However, Vietnam’s state management authorities still remain cautious about white shrimp culture. An official from the Aquaculture Department under MARD told VietNamNet that opinions still vary about allowing white shrimp hatcheries in Vietnam even after two international workshops in 2003 and 2005, which confirmed the growing tendency of white shrimp hatcheries.

The official said that another workshop will be held by MARD in HCM City early next month, after MARD received the proposal from VASEP.

The official said that if prevention measures are not followed strictly, the white shrimp hatcheries will cause diseases for black tiger shrimp, and the probability may reach 25%. The most common disease in this kind of shrimp is Taura, which will bring big losses in output and the aqua environment.

However, experts said that other countries now can produce disease-free parent shrimps. Meanwhile, Vietnam has not made any special research about this issue. Vietnam is also lacking a mechanism on controlling parent shrimp imports, which Thailand can do now.

Dr Dung from VASEP asserted that Vietnam has the ability of developing the white shrimp hatcheries if it can control the parent shrimp imports.

Ellen Hardy

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