India pursues genetically-altered black tiger shrimp to beat shortage
Shrinking supply in the face of very strong demand has sent prices of black tiger shrimp skyrocketing worldwide.
In Europe, prices are at "very high levels," industry insiders say, with seafood importers unable to supply the market. The main demand is said to come from Germany, Benelux, Austria, Switzerland and the UK.
The stock position in the EU is "extremely short," IntraFish quoted Heiko Lenk, CEO of Lenk Frozen Foods Asia, a major seafood supplier based in Thailand.
"Nobody has any product," he said, blaming extremely bad weather early in the year in Vietnam and Bangladesh, which are among the worlds top producers, for the current black tiger shrimp shortage.
Demands are just as strong in the US and China, industry sources add. And nobody expects the acute shortage to ease anytime soon.
Vietnam is the leading producer of black tiger shrimp in the world, producing about 300,000 tonnes a year. It is followed by India and Indonesia with a production of about 185,000 tonnes and 125,000 tonnes a year, respectively.
In India, prices of black tiger shrimp have been rising steeply because of short supply, compounded by increased orders from China and the US.
In June, black tiger was selling in in Kolkata at around US$12.30-US$12.50 per kg, for size 16-20 shrimp. When the harvesting began from April, prices have slowly been rising.
In August, it had risen to US$14.56.40, a local newspaper said.
Black tiger productions in China and in Indonesia are reported to have declined for various reasons, while US domestic inventories are believed to be lower than last year.
The prevailing market trend, according to reports, has inspired India to pursue its goal of genetically altering a native black tiger species to make it as highly productive as vannamei shrimp to meet global demand.
Scientists at Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture in Chennai, India, are "closing in on a stock of domesticated, disease-free black tiger shrimp, native to Indian waters," the Hindu Times newspaper reported.
Initial trials in Odisha and Kerala farms, they said, has produced "good results," adding that "commercial-scale production using genetically improved black tiger shrimp could begin in about five years."
"With this, black tiger shrimp will join Atlantic salmon, Pacific vannamei and unisex tilapia in the roster of genetically-improved varieties," they said, pointing out that such genetically altered stocks would be capable of doubling production.
Genetically altering shrimp is actually not a new idea. In Australia, scientists have come up with a genetically bred strain of larger, black tiger prawns that taste great.
After 10 years of careful breeding and research, scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)  have produced a larger tiger prawn known to produce prolifically from around 5 tonnes per hectare to 17.5 tonnes per hectare.
"One of the (prawn) ponds actually achieved 24.2 tonnes per hectare, which is a world record," said Bruce Lee, director of the CSIRO's Food Future Flagship.
The black tiger prawn is bred in drought-proof salt-water ponds in a closed loop system, he said.
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