December 20, 2004
Bangladesh Registers Sharp Decline in Shrimp Export
Bangladesh's shrimp export plunged in the first four months of the current fiscal, way behind the official target for the year.
During July-October, the shrimp export dropped to US$ 98.81 million or 32.03 per cent from $145.37 million recorded during the corresponding period in 2003-04.
The poor performance of the sector has been attributed to a large scale virus infection, stiff competition in the world market, the damage caused to production by the recent floods as well as the lack of coordination among the concerned agencies.
The sources said the government had set the shrimp export earning target at $140.91 million for the first four months but it fell short by 29.88 per cent.
The export of ships fetched the country $390.25 million in 2003-04.
The Bangladesh Frozen Food Exporters Association (BFFEA) earlier placed a number of proposals to enhance shrimp yield through maintaining quality.
The sources said a new variety of high yielding organic shrimp - Vannamei -- from Thailand and the Philippines is increasingly popular in the international shrimp market for its highly competitive price.
"When per pound of local variety -- Black Tiger-16-20 -- is selling between $5.20 and 5.90$, the Vannamei type costs only between $ 2.30 and $ 3.0 in the international market, a producer said.
He said the flood during the first quarter of the fiscal was responsible for the spread of virus in different shrimp-growing areas. This has resulted in lower production and poor quality.
"We were unable to take several export orders due to the shortfall in production," said a producer, who owns three large shrimp farms in the Satkhira shrimp growing region.
Around 35,000 tons of shrimps are exported on an average every year and it was speculated that the volume can be raised up to 300,000 tons.
President of the (BFFEA) Kazi Monirul Haque is optimistic about the prospect of the sector and said the scenario will change soon.
"Although the growers faced some problems due to the floods and the international competition the export will rise with start of shrimp harvesting season in coming months, the BFFEA chief said.
The country's shrimp yield remains as low as 200 kg per hectare against an international average of more than 800 kg per hectare.
Disease-free post-larvae (PL) and controlled shrimp cultivation are some of the steps suggested by the BFFEA leaders few months ago.
Introduction of modern technology and scientific management replacing the existing traditional method can save the country's shrimp industry from ruination, another producer said.
Nearly 37,400 shrimp farms, which generate $301 million annually through export of brackish water shrimp, bagda, and sweet water prawn, golda, have been badly affected by the floods. Bangladesh's shrimp is highly praised in the international market for its taste.