Coconut farmers switch to shrimp
BEN TRE — Nguyen Van Son, a farmer in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Ben Tre, has cut down his 5,000sq.m coconut grove to dig a pond to farm white-leg shrimp.
Son, who lives in Hamlet 2 in Binh Dai District's Binh Thoi Commune, said his 25-year-old grove fruited regularly and helped his family earn enough money for living.
However, he was attracted by the high profits that white-leg shrimp reportedly offered, he said.
Son is one of many farmers in Ben Tre, the country's biggest coconut producer, to have cut down their coconut trees to make way for white-leg shrimp ponds despite the current high coconut prices.
The price of copra in the delta province is now at a high VND12,000-12,500 (US$0.57 – 0.59) per nut.
Le Minh Hung, a cell secretary of Hamlet 2, said coconut and black tiger shrimp cultivation were two traditional strengths of the locality.
However, many farmers had suffered losses after breeding black tiger shrimp because of disease outbreaks in recent years, and they had switched to white-leg shrimp on a pilot basis last year, he said.
Farmers discovered that white-leg shrimp offered three or four times more profits than black tiger shrimp, he said, and chopped down many coconut orchards and farmed the shrimp instead.
The Binh Thoi People's Committee said of 700ha of shrimp farms in Binh Thoi Commune, 210ha had been coconut groves.
In Binh Dai, which has the largest area of coconut orchards converted into ponds in Ben Tre, white-leg shrimp was farmed on more than 1,000ha though the district had only zoned for 800ha in 2015, Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) reported.
Farmers also cultivated white-leg shrimp in mainly fresh-water areas in Binh Dai's Loc Thuan, Phu Vang, Phu Long, Vang Quoi Tay communes which had no plans to develop white-leg shrimp cultivation.
They dug wells to obtain brackish water.
"We know that we are not allowed to breed marine species in fresh-water areas," said Nguyen Dinh Aùi, a farmer in Loc Thuan Commune's Loc Thanh Hamlet. "But we cannot become wealthy from coconut and white-leg shrimp is now a mainstay for farmers in fresh-water areas."
Le Phong Hai, director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said his department worked with the Binh Dai District People's Committee to encourage farmers not to drill wells to draw water for white-leg shrimp because it was not sustainable over the long term to farm white-leg shrimp in fresh-water areas.
But the penalties for breeding marine species in fresh-water areas were not stipulated nor was there a ban on cutting down coconut trees to breed shrimp, he said.
Official agencies could only warn farmers against the practices, he added. — VNS