|Shrimp exports experienced a year on year increase of 42.3 per cent growth. – Photo Misa
by Le Hung Vong
The Vietnamese equivalent of the English phrase ‘selling like hot cakes' is ‘selling like fresh shrimp' (Dat nhu tom tuoi). It is also an apt description of Vietnamese shrimp exports in the first 10 months of this year.
As of October, exports were worth US$3.25 billion, a year-on-year increase of 42.3 per cent. The figure for the whole of last year was $3 billion.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, 2014 will be a big year for Viet Nam's shrimp farming industry. Already 569,000 tonnes of shrimp have been harvested, and output for the full year is expected to shoot up by 20.4 per cent to 660,000 tonnes.
Speaking at a conference on shrimp farming in the Mekong province of Ben Tre on November 4, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Vu Van Tam said despite the threat posed by diseases and the rising cost of animal feed and shrimp fry (for breeding), local farmers, with their great efforts, have managed a bumper shrimp harvest this year.
There were 676,000h hectares of shrimp-breeding ponds, an increase of 46.4 per cent from the same period last year and 33.3 per cent higher than targeted.
The southern region, which accounts for 93 per cent of this, accounts for 84.4 per cent of Viet Nam's shrimp production.
The US has been the biggest buyer of Vietnamese shrimp followed by Japan.
Exports to the European Union rose sharply in the period, making it one of the biggest buyers. Exports to Germany were up 63.8 per cent and to the Netherlands, 255.9 per cent.
Other big growth markets were South Korea (84.4 per cent) and Australia (32.7 per cent).
The Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors (VASEP) now forecasts shrimp export revenues of $3.8 billion this year.
To sustain the outstanding performance of the shrimp industry, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat has instructed the Aquaculture General Department to complete the master plan for restructuring the shrimp farming industry.
In the last two months of the year and in 2015 the ministry will co-operate with provinces to intensify the fight against shrimp diseases.
Sugarcane bitter taste
Many farmers in the Mekong Delta province of Ca Mau have burnt their sugarcane crop after failing to sell it to sugar mills. In Thoi Binh District no buyer had offered to buy the sugarcane set to be harvested on over 1,800ha.
Duong Thi Rang, a farmer in the district's Bach Dong Commune, has turned 3,000sq.m of sugarcane fields into shrimp breeding ponds after burning the crop.
"My family never faced such a difficult situation in the past decades. In the past we would sell out our crops despites low prices. But this year we could not find buyers for our cane," she told newswire VnExpress.
Many other families also suffered after the Ca Mau Sugar Plant in Thoi Binh District announced it would not buy cane from farmers in the district and the neighbouring district of Vinh Thuan in Kien Giang Province.
Tran Trung Hieu of Tri Phai Commune said: "We invested all our money in our cane fields, but now there is no one to buy. The situation has forced us to let saltwater into the fields for shrimp breeding."
Farmer Do Van Thang explained that many farmers have chosen to burn their cane because the cost of labour to harvest it and transporting it to another place to sell would exceed the revenue from selling it.
The chairman of the Thoi Binh District People's Committee, Huynh Quoc Hoang, said, "We have been informed about the difficulties facing cane growers in the district, but we can do nothing to help them because the buyer – the Ca Mau Sugar Plant – has stopped buying."
The plant is the only buyer of sugarcane from 1,700 farmers in Ca Mau District and 2,300 others in the neighbouring province of Kien Giang, who grow the crop on over 3,700ha and supply nearly 300,000 tonnes of cane a year.
But after its parent company, the Southwest Cane – Sugar Co., was recently fined VND360 million (nearly US$17,000) for environmental violations, it decided to temporarily close down the Ca Mau Sugar Plant.
According to the province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, though sugarcane prices have dropped by VND500 per kilogramme to VND200-300 lower than production costs, farmers cannot sell their produce.
To help the growers, the provincial administration has petitioned the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Prime Ministry to help revive the Ca Mau Sugar Plant. — VNS