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Drought, salinity hits fishery exports

Update: March, 19/2016 - 20:24
Severe drought in the Mekong Delta has badly affected agriculture and aquaculture, threatening a scarcity of raw materials for seafood exports. – Photo tinmoitruong.vn

HCM City – Severe drought in the Mekong Delta has badly affected agriculture and aquaculture, threatening a scarcity of raw materials for seafood exports.

Shrimp farmers in Bến Tre, Trà Vinh, Sóc Trăng and Kiên Giang provinces are nervous as their shrimp keep dying because of drought and saltwater intrusion up rivers.

“Shrimp farming is so risky,” Sài Gòn Giải Phóng (Liberated Sài Gòn) newspaper quoted Lê Minh Hùng, a farmer in Bình Đại District, Bến Tre, as saying. “I have spent VNĐ70 million (US$3,100) on two hectares of shrimp within a month but now they are all dead.”

Nguyễn Văn Dài, deputy chairman of Mỹ Long Nam Commune in Trà Vinh’s Cầu Ngang District, lamented: “Shrimp farming in our commune is facing a very serious challenge. This year, farmers have just farmed 300ha out of a total of 910ha of shrimp, but 25 per cent of the shrimp have died of disease.”

Trần Quang Củi, deputy director of the Kiên Giang Province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said, “Before the bad weather arrived, the department sent workers to measure salinity and it was over 30 per cent.

“We couldn’t feed shrimp at that time. We should wait for rain to feed the shrimp.”

Oysters in the delta have also been decimated by the heat, high salinity and pollution.

“Oysters have started dying in our commune, and we have to harvest now to avoid [further] loss,” Khổng Văn Lệnh of Bảo Thuận commune in Bến Tre’s Ba Tri District, said.

The severe weather is worrying seafood exporters since the farming area has been significantly reduced, and they are finding it very hard to source shrimp.

“The bad weather will reduce fisheries production and so exports will fall,” said Ngô Thanh Lĩnh, general secretary of the Cà Mau Province Seafood Processing and Exporting Association.

He expected processing plants to run at only 50–60 per cent capacity and the province’s exports to be around only US$1 billion against a target of US$1.2 billion.The drought and salinity have also hit catfish farming, which was already in a bad state due to long-term low prices.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, fisheries exports to date this year have risen 8.2 per cent to US$1.1 billion, but the year’s target of US$7.1 billion will be hard to achieve.

Agriculture Minister Cao Đức Phát has instructed related authorities to monitor and support agriculture to mitigate the effects of the severe drought and saline intrusion in the delta. “Seafood exports play a very important role in the national economy, and therefore this year the project to restructure the seafood industry based on sustainable development will be carried out.” -- VNS

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