January 12, 2005



Thailand's Shrimp Farms Suffer Heavy Losses Due To Tsunami


The Thai shrimp-farming industry suffered US$500 million worth of damage in the deadly tsunami that struck southern Thailand two weeks ago.


In India, industry representatives said more than 60 hatcheries were partially damaged by the tsunami, leading to a loss of about US$150 million.


Thailand is among the world's top four shrimp exporters, shipping out about 250,000 tons annually, while India is another large player with annual exports of 100,000 tons. The December 26 tsunami leveled Thai farming buildings and washed away equipment and shrimp raised in hundreds of seaside manmade saltwater lagoons.


"More than 100 workers were killed, and about 1 billion baht (US$25 million) worth of property was damaged. About 30 percent of the breeding stock and hatchery industry was also destroyed," according to Somsak Paneetassayasai, president of the Shrimp Industry Association. "The total losses were about US$500 million."


The tsunami struck Thailand along the Andaman Sea coast provinces of Ranong, Phang Nga, Krabi, Phuket and Trang.


India's southeastern coast, home to most of the country's shrimp producers, was devastated by the tsunami, but hatcheries escaped major damage because most are simple, low-cost, low-technology structures.


"Output from India will be reduced, because fishing boats have been damaged and there is hardly any brooding stock being brought from the sea," said T. Raghunatha Reddy, secretary general of the Seafood Exporters Association of India.


He expected export volume to fall by 20 percent.


Meanwhile, Somsak said the Thai shrimp industry will take at least six months to acquire new breeders and restore the hatcheries. The damage will cause Thai shrimp exports to plummet by 75,000 to 80,000 tons this year.


About 300,000 shrimp workers will lose their jobs because of the tsunami. The industry normally employs 1 million people.


The government effort to regain the General System of Preference (GSP) from European nations will provide long-term assistance to the shrimp industry, but it also needs immediate assistance in the form of soft loans to cover their losses, Somsak said.


Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told EU delegates last week that Thailand does not need financial assistance from foreign countries but asked the EU to grant GSP to Thailand instead.


"The GSP will help farmers in the long run because the EU currently consumes about 700,000 tons of shrimp annually, but they import only 5,000 tons from Thailand," Thaksin said.


Indian expects to be back in business soon, with the worst-affected producers taking, at the most, three months to be working again. They also expect international prices to go up, offsetting the volume loss.


"If that happens, it may turn out to be a good time for Indian shrimp exporters... That will help us compensate for the loss from the tsunami," said S. Vasudevan, managing director of Hi-line Aqua, a shrimp feed company.

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