Unseasonal rains causes shrimp breeders misery

Tiger shrimp breeders in the Mekong Delta are facing huge losses due to unseasonal rains, which brought a sudden change to salt concentration and the death of large numbers of shrimp.

A farmer feeds his shrimp, he is worried about the selling price for the next harvest

According to the latest reports from the Department of Fishery Cultivation and Breeding of the Mekong Delta, out of 540,000 hectares of land used for trigger shrimp in late 2008, all shrimp in 148,000 hectares in Ca Mau, Kien Giang and Soc Trang provinces were killed by unseasonal rains. Only 45 percent of farmers made a profit, leaving the others to break even, at best. Many incurred losses.

The situation has led to many local farmers not having enough capital to reinvest in the coming crops.

Farmers in Lai Hoa Commune of Soc Trang Province had previously used all the land for breeding tiger shrimps, but now only 30 percent of the land has been used.

Truong Thai Binh, a farmer in Lai Hoa said, “We don’t have much capital and have to buy feed on credit, but feed sellers are no longer ready to offer us this method of payment.”

“In the last crop of 2008,” explained Binh, “we had to sell our produce at lower prices than those of feed. Due to big losses, we could not make payments to the feed sellers on time. That’s why they now do not trust us anymore.”

The challenge that Nguyen Van Thanh, farmer of Thanh Quoi Commune of Soc Trang Province, is facing is another example of the hardships. He used to breed tiger shrimps on two hectares of land, but now he has no choice but to hire out 3,000 square meters for VND5 million (US$280) a month.

Thanh said, “I’ve used the money to buy food to feed the shrimps being bred on the remaining area of land.”

He added, “Since many farmers here can’t ask for loans from banks, they have little choice but to reduce the breeding density or only use part of the land for breeding purposes.”

Indeed, only 50 percent of land in Thanh Tri Commune, Soc Trang Province, is now used for growing short-day crops instead of breeding shrimps.

Lam Hoang Ninh, manager of Agricultural and Rural Development of Thanh Tri said, “Local farmers have not only suffered from a reduction in productivity because the land had been used for breeding so many times, but also from unpredictable weather and a continued increase in feed and veterinary medicine. Unfortunately, the selling price of the shrimp in the last crop was only VND80,000 (US$4.49) a kilo, not enough to cover their expenses.”

Tu Van Mung, deputy director of Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development of Vinh Chau District, Soc Trang, said that despite empathizing farmers’ difficult situation, the bank cannot offer more loans to local shrimp breeders, as they have now owe VND 70 billion (US$3,937,000) due to losses arising in the last crops.

As a measure, Nguyen Van Khoi, deputy director of Soc Trang Department of Agricultural and Rural Development said, “We are proposing the provincial People’s Committee to supply breeding stocks free to farmers. But help from the local government is not enough to help farmers get through current difficulties.”

He added,” We also need help from shrimp processing businesses, feed manufacturers, veterinary medicine companies, distributors and banks. Stabilizing the shrimp market, as well as the market of feed and veterinary medicines, will no doubt be one of many positive factors that can help.”  

By Staff writers – Translated by Phuong Lan

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