Thailand Setting the Stage for Recovery

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Thailand Setting the Stage for Recovery

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The fall in shrimp prices this year has exposed significant differences in how farmers in the major Asian producing countries have reacted to early mortality syndrome (EMS).  In a low-priced environment, only those farmers who are confident about the level of risk they are taking with production will continue to produce high volumes of shrimp.

The last two years have been characterized by a huge increase in production in new areas, which has led to a surplus of shrimp and low prices, and by a sharp decline of production in Thailand, formerly the number one global shrimp producer.

Speaking with analysts and industry members in Asia, John Sackton, editor of, an online, subscription-based, fisheries news service, said, “We feel 2016 will be quite a different year for the global shrimp markets than 2015.  Significantly, the recovery in Thailand has really taken hold based on new farming practices.  Although Thailand will never return to the 500,000 to 600,000 metric-ton annual production, it is on track to be one of the most stable and profitable shrimp producing regions in the coming years.”

“Countries that have revamped their production in the face of EMS are going to be the new efficient producers, while those who have failed to restructure, or have been keeping ahead of disease by opening new areas will find production volume slows or reverses.”

“A recent survey in Thailand by David Kawahigashi, an expert in Penaeus vannamei cultivation who trains shrimp farmers around Southeast Asia, uncovered real changes in Thai shrimp aquaculture, which so far do not seem to be occurring anywhere else.”

“In the last few months, says Kawahigashi, ‘Farms that were previously hit hard by EMS/APHNS and having a difficult time producing shrimp economically are now harvesting large volumes in the 30-40-metric-ton-per-hectare range (per crop!) at survival rates between 80 and 90%.  The farmers seem to have a regained confidence’.”

“Those farms that are showing improvements are farms that have all undergone modifications in pond and farm configurations as well as a water management.  More and more farms are quickly adopting these changes.  The farmers believe they must maintain a healthy pond bottom environment where the APHNS bacteria are the most concentrated.”

“Another shrimp industry advisor said, ‘Farmers can now explain this disease to me better than I can explain it to them.   It brings a smile to my face—and their management reflects this new understanding’.”

“The successful farmers have made a number of specific changes.”

“First, they carefully control feeding rates.  Buildup of wastes from uneaten shrimp feed is one of the reservoirs of the APHNS bacteria.”

“Second, they have increased their water exchange capacity and reduced stocking densities.  Water quality is another factor that has proved important in the control of disease.”

“Third, they are using ‘shrimp toilets’.  These are deep sumps constructed in the center of the pond to collect and trap settled wastes.  The effluent water carrying sediments from these sumps is carried to a series of recirculation reservoirs, some of which also have tilapia, before being circulated back to the shrimp pond.”

“The net result is that they have vastly reduced the loads of EMS/APHNS carrying bacteria, and as a result have returned to very high survival rates on the order of 80% to 90%.”

“Kawahigashi says the farms he visited were harvesting 30-35 gram (16-20/pound HLSO) shrimp in 100 days.”

“Most of these farms operated a nursery phase for 20-25 days prior to transfer to their growout ponds.  Farms not operating a nursery would harvest ±20 gram (31-35 HLSO) shrimp in the 100-day grow out; or if they grew for 70 days would harvest 16-18 gram shrimp.”

“These changes in farming practice have not spread to Vietnam, Malaysia or China, let alone Indonesia and India, which face quite different environmental conditions.”

“In the market, most consumers are still reacting to the high prices of a year ago, and there is a lag time before they change behavior.   But consumption is changing in the USA as there is little evidence of inventory build up and shrimp promotions and retail sales are increasing.  At the same time demand for imported shrimp in countries like China remains strong.”

Source: (an online, subscription-based, fisheries news service).  Editor and Publisher, John Sackton (phone 1-781-861-1441, email  Thailand Setting the Stage for Permanent and Profitable Shrimp Recovery.  John Sackton.  September 22, 2015.

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