August 14, 2014
Shrimp exports to the US has nearly halved over the past several years although Bangladesh's overall exports set a record high last year mainly from European demand, the Financial Express reports.
Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) officials had listed several factors which contributed to the fall in trade on the US market and the rise on the EU market that lifted the country's shrimp exports.
Shrimp exports fetched US$638 million in fiscal 2013-14, up from US$543 million in the previous fiscal. The breakthrough came last year against the backdrop of a highly depressed market for Bangladesh in the past several years.
The sources said major exporters like China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and India had outpaced Bangladesh in price competition in the early 2010s as they were shipping low-cost hybrid shrimps. However, many of them faced a sudden crop failure due to attack on 'venamy' and such other hybrid shrimps as well as tsunamis which over-flooded the fields. These adversities led to a supply shortfall on the global market.
Bangladesh then came in to fill the gap and fed the European market, often at 20-30% higher prices.
An official from the Bangladesh Frozen Food Exporters Association (BFFEA) said the current problem of Bangladesh's shrimp industry is its lower per-hectare yield. The output stands about 300-350 kilograms per hectare employing traditional methods compared to Thailand's 6,000-7,000 kilogram per hectare using hybrid culture. The country is not producing enough to supply to the US market which now concentrates on buying hybrid and low- cost produce from traditional sources like Vietnam, Thailand and China. Consequently, export to the US has decreased over the past several years, from US$110 million in 2008-09 to only US$55 million last year.
"The major problem here is lower per-hectare productivity, which is forcing 80% of the country's 32 shrimp-processing plants to keep sitting idle," he said. "They have a combined processing capacity of 3.5 lakh tonnes but producing only 60,000 tonnes annually for export."
The BFFEA official said experts and industry owners are by and large opposed to switching over to farming venamy and such other high-yielding species for they are highly vulnerable to disease and not environmentally suitable. Instead, they have taken up a pilot project in Cox's Bazaar to gradually switch to semi-intensive and improved extensive local culture which may have per-hectare productivity at 4,500 kg and 1,500 kg respectively.