July 26, 2004



Virus Attack Threatens Bangladesh Shrimp Industry


Bangladesh's shrimp industry, the country's second largest foreign exchange earner, is facing its worst ever crisis because of a virus attack.


The 'white spot' disease has swept through shrimp farms concentrated in the southern Khulna and southeastern Cox's Bazaar regions.


Nearly 37,400 shrimp farms, which generate $301 million annually from brackish water shrimp, bagda, and sweet water prawn, golda, have been affected by the virus.


The disease has decimated around 800 nurseries completely.


The outbreak has also hit over 6,000 shrimp farmers in Bagerhat, severely impacting the industry.


The shrimp-farming sector may be close to collapsing, experts and farmers say. They said temperature and heavy rainfall increased the severity of the disease, reports the daily.


Over 600,000 people are directly or indirectly involved in the industry in Bangladesh that contributes about three percent of global shrimp production.


Experts say countries like Thailand and India also collect shrimp from the same part of Bay of Bengal. But they fight the virus by applying hatchery management techniques and practices that Bangladesh lacks.


Ron Gillespie, chief of the Agro-based Industries and Technology Development Project (ATDP), said production would multiply if shrimp farmers used virus-free post-larvae and followed modern techniques.


Only disease-free post-larvae and controlled shrimp cultivation can help increase shrimp exports from $300 million to $1.5 billion by 2008, experts say.