|This file photo shows fisheries workers preparing shrimp for export at a factory in Yangon.
FALLING export sales in the seafood market have resulted in an expansion of domestic sales for giant freshwater prawns and tiger shrimps, industry sources say.
Sales of shrimp and prawn, once the country’s biggest fisheries export, have fallen dramatically over the past two years, said a spokesperson from Myanmar Fishery Products Processors’ and Exporters’ Association (MPEA), the result of belt-tightening in the global recession and high production costs.
“The shrimp market took a big hit because of the recession, compared to other fisheries products which have better marketing power,” said U Soe Tun, vice chairman (1) of Myanmar Shrimp Association.
He recommended the use of new technology and financial incentives in order to improve the situation.
According to Department of Fisheries figures, prawn exports fell from 25,300 tonnes, worth US$120 million, in 2006-2007, to 18,300 tonnes, worth $88 million in 2008-2009. As of October 2009, shrimp exports amounted to a mere 8900 tonnes, worth only $27 million.
There are now about 216,000 acres of shrimp farms in the country, a decrease from 225,500 acres in 2007-2008, figures from the DOF show.
The current export price of sea-caught 31-40 gram size headless giant tiger shrimp is about $3.6 per kilogram. Semi-intensively farmed giant tiger shrimp of the same size go for $2.2 per kilogram, and white shrimp sell at $2.1 – all about 30pc down compared to before the financial crisis, said an MPEA spokesperson.
Yuzana is one of the four companies left that focus on marine [salt water] shrimps. The size of its farm, now 100 acres, has fallen by half since 2007, but last year it was only 50 acres.
“Despite the decrease since 2007, we expect to produce more than 400 tonnes this year, the same as 2007. We can harvest up to 70 juvenile white shrimps per square metre,” said a Yuzana spokesperson. Yuzana produces 90 percent of its stock from farming and 10pc from the sea.
Like Myanmar, Vietnam also saw a decrease in shrimp exports due to the fall of prices causing black tiger shrimp production to shrink. Thailand also recorded a drop of up to 15pc in the first three months of 2009.
Compared to Myanmar’s export of shrimp, which reaches about 10,000 tonnes, China exports around 400,000 tonnes, Thailand about 450,000 tonnes and Indonesia about 300,000, said U Han Tun, executive vice-president of Myanmar Fisheries Federation.
Myanmar farms three kinds of shrimp: giant fresh water prawn, giant tiger shrimp and white shrimp.
Faced with the instability of the seafood market, the government has advised farmers to select the breed they think best suits the current situation.