February 12, 2004
Malaysia To Tap Into RM30 Billion Tiger Prawn Industry Potential
Malaysia can spin an estimated RM30 billion tiger prawn industry, by tapping a home-grown technology which rehabilitates disused pools found at tiger prawn farms.
The technology, which was introduced two years ago by an obstetrician and gynaecologist, controls the water quality in the ponds and weeds out bacterial contamination through ionisation.
It has yielded "environmentally-friendly" tiger prawns at a farm in Kampung Pasir Gebu Tepi Laut, near Kepala Batas on mainland Penang.
With an annual production of 60 tonnes of tiger prawns, Evergreen Fresh Aquaculture Sdn Bhd is now looking to produce 100 tonnes a year to meet increasing demand from local exporters.
"The ionised method, which does not employ any chemicals such as antibiotics or probiotics, reduces the cycle of tiger prawn harvesting from the traditional 140 days to 40 days," the company's managing director Dr Vong Nyam Seng told reporters during a visit to the farm by Deputy Agriculture minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shariff Omar.
Dr Vong said he was inspired to employ the technology in prawn farming, after observing the technique employed to disinfect the floors of his clinic in Seberang Prai.
He said operational costs in employing his method with tiger prawn farming was RM15 per kg, and he had managed to reduce this figure to RM10 for every kg.
"Our aim now is to bring it down to less than RM5 per kg," he added.
Evergreen Fresh Aquaculture's tiger prawn farm sits on a 13.2ha site, where its ponds are filled with recycleable brackish (or salty) water.
The company sells its produce exclusively to Penang-based seafood packing company Hunza Consolidation Bhd.
Hunza's group chairman Datuk Khor Teng Tong, who was also present, said there is increased demand for the tiger prawns cultivated by Evergreen Fresh by countries like Japan, Europe and the US.
"They keep asking for more," he added, saying that the environmentally-sound manner in which the tiger prawns are cultivated, along with its firm and fresh texture are plus points.
Meanwhile, Mohd Shariff said the potential of exploiting Dr Vong's method will be looked into by his ministry.
"We hope to enter into a smart partnership with the company through the Department of Fisheries in extending the applications of the technology to rehabilitate tiger prawn farms which have been abandoned," the minister said.
Figures released by the ministry two years ago revealed that the country's tiger prawn industry was growing at an average rate of 21 per cent yearly from 1991 to 2000, producing some 17,500 tonnes valued at RM495 million.
Mohd Shariff said the industry involves a pond area of 3,200ha, of which 10 per cent was disused.
"Since this technology still needs to be fine-tuned, we will need to work closely with the private sector in learning more about it," he added.