Thai, Vietnamese aquaculture report full recovery from 2012 disease outbreaks
By F.E. OLIMPO
After nearly four years of production challenges brought about by an insidious Asia-wide shrimp disease epidemic, Southeast Asia's top shrimp exporters Thailand and Vietnam have started to enjoy full recovery.
The Vietnam Seafood Exporters and Producers Association reports that in the first eight months of the year, Vietnam's seafood exports hit US$4.43 billion, up 5.2% from the same period last year.
Exports of shrimp, it says, increased by 5.8%, pangasius by 6%, tuna by 2.1%, other finfish by 8.3%, crabs and other crustaceans by 7.2%. The association expects total seafood exports' growth to remain between 5% and 6% over that of 2015.
In dollar terms, the country exported US$1.93 billion worth of shrimp from January to August. At 10%, whiteleg shrimp posted the biggest increase, with black tiger reporting a slight decline of 0.5%.
Shrimp shipments to the US during the same period reached US$435.3 million, up 16.5% year on year, according to the association. Vietnam attributed the hefty increase to supply problems from other shrimp exporters such as India, Indonesia, Ecuador, and Thailand.
Sales to the EU reached US$372 million, up 7% year on year. Broken down, shrimp shipments to the Netherlands showed the biggest increase 29%, followed by the United Kingdom at 8.4%, and Germany at 2.1% year-on-year.
There has been a downside, however, as export to Japan, one of its major markets, was down 6.4% to US$343.7 million during the same eight-month period due to a weak yen and higher shrimp price.
In Thailand, shrimp farmers are rating production and export prospects as "good," declaring at the same time that the disease epidemic that damaged the industry since late 2012 was over. The Thai Shrimp Association (TSA) expects Thailand's shrimp production to increase by 10% this year.
Thai farmers even expect to regain a big share of the market they had lost to India, which has become the world's largest shrimp producer, a position Thailand held for many years, until the epidemic.
However, despite full recovery from the disease, the industry remains wary about its future. It is still worried about non-tariff barriers, especially those set up by the European Union over illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, while the United States has left Thailand languishing in Tier 3, the lowest level of its annual "Trafficking in Persons" report, according to the TSA.
Somsak Paneetatyasai, TSA president, says he continues to be concerned about non-tariff barriers, as the EU and the US have given Thailand poor marks on the management of its fishery industry. Although most companies |in the Thai shrimp industry are large |operations that are well managed and have good labour standards, the industry could still be affected, he says, even as he calls for the government to help solve many non-tariff barriers, including human-trafficking reports, the IUU issue and anti-dumping duties.
He adds that the lack of a free-trade agreement with the EU and a delay in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership could also affect the growth of the shrimp industry in the future.
The association forecasts total domestic production expanding to more than 300,000 tonnes this year, up by about 10% from last year's output of 260,000 tonnes, and an increase of 13% from 2013's 230,000 tonnes thanks to the reduction of early mortality syndrome in shrimp hatcheries.
Global shrimp production this year should reach about 2.04 million tonnes, 8% lower from last year, as many countries including India, China and Vietnam expect lower shrimp productions this year due to disease challenges.