September 20, 2011


Thai resolution threatens white shrimp producers


The resolution introduced by the Thai government could put certain white shrimp producers out of business, as they are being equated with black tiger prawn raisers as environmental threats.


In 1998 the government passed a law banning inland farming of black tiger prawn. This year fresh controversy arose when the Abhisit government singled out white shrimp farming. While not banning the practice, the government empowered provincial governors to prohibit white shrimp farming within their borders. This came despite farmers' contention that their ponds use low salt concentrations and pose no threat to the environment.


Prakop Sapyodkeow, who raises white shrimp in ponds on his 250 rai in Ratchaburi province's Bang Phae district grows rice in dried-out shrimp ponds after harvesting his shrimp, reasoning that if the rice grows well the water can't be harming the environment of which he urges other shrimp farmers to do the same.


Inland white shrimp farmers had been enjoying good yields and prices for almost 10 years. On Dec 24 of last year then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva signed a resolution giving provincial governors the power to ban aquaculture in their provinces that uses water with salt concentrations higher than 2.5gm/kg, or parts per thousand (ppt).


So far the governors of 12 provinces have exercised that power. Governors have yet to issue a similar order in provinces home to several shrimp farms, including Mr Prakop's home province Ratchaburi, Suphan Buri, Nakhon Pathom, Ayutthaya, Ang Thong and other Central provinces.


Mr Prakop says it was wrong for the Abhisit government to target white shrimp farmers. The species, he says, is able to thrive in water with very low salinity levels that poses no contamination danger to freshwater sources.


Mr Prakop chairs an association of white shrimp farmers in the Central provinces. They have organised an annual white shrimp festival to promote the industry in Bang Phae, where around 2,000 farmers raise the species on about 20,000 rai, making it the major white shrimp producer in the region.


The 1998 resolution specified the prohibition of inland black tiger prawn farms, leaving a ''loophole'' for white shrimp farmers. The 2010 directive to governors came into effect after complaints from rice farmers, mostly in Phetchaburi province that used saline water from the ponds was draining into waterways.


The Office of National Environment Planning and Policy (Onep) under the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry says the shrimp grow well in water with a salinity of 10-22ppt, but that over time the salt will concentrate and damage soil and waterways. Onep secretary-general Nisakorn Kositrat said her agency had inspected 25 white shrimp farms in the Central region before the ban was imposed and 22 were found to be using water with salinity higher than 2.5ppt.


Mr. Prakop said that many people raised tiger prawns on rented land and when the farms were hit by disease and low prices they fled leaving damaged plots behind and this became authorities' perception of shrimp farming in general. It's different now because we own our land and not just 'hit and run', Mr. Prakop added.


Hoping to head off enforcement of the 2010 directive, Mr Prakop's association filed a complaint against Mr Abhisit at the Administrative Court for issuing it but was dismissed for reason empowered by Section 9 of the Environment Act to order state officials to control or stop the distribution of pollutants which could endanger the public.

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