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Pioneering snail-fed shrimp farms yield higher profits

Update: February, 02/2007 - 00:00

Pioneering snail-fed shrimp farms yield higher profits

(03-02-2007)

BAC LIEU — A shrimp breeder in Bac Lieu Township has successfully pioneered the use oc buou vang, or golden snails, which are prolific pests that eat through farmers’ crops, to feed tiger prawns.

His new feeding system, along with studies on pond population densities, has created higher incomes and lowered risks for local farmers.

Five years ago, Vo Hong Ngoan, 50, decided to take a gamble and raise prawns after a trip to the southern provinces of Soc Trang and Ca Mau where there is widespread shrimp farming. At the time, he was a struggling lorry driver whose family was going through tough economic times.

He returned to Bac Lieu Township, his birthplace, where the provincial People’s Committee had enacted a policy to switch ineffective rice fields into aquaculture ponds.

Ngoan then bought three hectares of land with his life savings and dug four ponds to breed shrimp. His first crop resulted in a mere VND100 million in profit.

Like many other breeders, Ngoan relied heavily on industrial shrimp feed which increased costs and cut into his income. Wanting to find an alternative, he began experimenting and eventually decided on golden snails, which multiplied rapidly in neighbouring agriculture fields.

He discovered the nutritional value in one kilogram of industrial feed is equivalent to three kilograms of golden snail chum, and prawns three to four months old can eat the snails twice a day.

Ngoan usually uses 10kg of industrial feed in the morning and 30-40kg of snail in the afternoon. In the two months leading up to the harvest, he only uses snail which helps farmers protect their crops and is more economical for breeders who no longer have to rely so heavily on industrial feed.

He also conducted studies on population density in ponds and found that 7-11 shrimp per square meter was more economical than the more common 35-40 shrimp a square meter.

The necessary investment in the less dense ponds was also smaller, which limited risks to shrimp farmers.

Total sales from Ngoan’s ponds in 2004 were VND8 billion, of which VND3 billion was profit. Last year, profits grew to VND4.2 billion using his new shrimp farming technique.

Spreading the model

At a 2005 conference, Bac Lieu People’s Committee Deputy Chairman Nguyen Truong Giang encouraged provincial authorities and other shrimp farmers to follow Ngoan’s snail-density model.

Breeders in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta Provinces and Central region soon began implementing the model with technical support from Ngoan , while the country committed itself to cleaning up the industry plagued by food-safety, health and environmental problems.

Ngoan is confident about the shrimp export market, arguing that Viet Nam could produce prawns that are on average meatier than those raised in competing markets.

Shrimp bred in Japan, Thailand, China and India, all of which use higher pond population densities, weigh about 16-20 grams each, while those bred using Ngoan’s system were 40-50 grams.

Presently, Bac Lieu Sea-product Export-Import Company and Hai Kim joint-venture company purchase all of Ngoan’s harvest, though he hopes to someday sell his prawns directly to European buyers.

"My biggest desire is that Vietnamese farmers focus on breeding disease-free, heavyweight shrimp that will create strength in the international market for the country," he says. — VNS

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