Mass clam deaths leave farmers in debt

Update: March, 29/2014 - 09:17

QUANG NINH (VNS)— The death of 60 million snout otter clams the key aquaculture product of northern Quang Ninh Province's Van Don District, has devastated the clam farming community.

Caused by the Perkinsus parasite, for which there is no known cure, the massive deaths left hundreds of households facing financial difficulties, said Nguyen Quang Ninh, deputy head of the district's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The disease cost 700 households and 20 enterprises more than VND200 billion (US$9.4 million). Many farmers were forced to sell their clam cages –and even homes – to pay off their debts.

Farming of snout otter clams in the district started in 2003. After seven years, the tempting profits from the business raised farming households from 10 to 700.

La Thi Loan, owner of a waste collection business in the district's Cai Rong Township, said her shop had purchased tens of tonnes of cages from local farmers since early last year. More cages were transported to her shop every day, as well as the other two waste collection businesses in the township.

Nguyen Van Tot has worked on aquaculture in the district for years. The director of Van Hoa JSC said tens of thousands of cages were abandoned underwater as the money earned from selling the clams was not enough to pay workers to fish them from the sea.

Nguyen Van Thin, chairman of the Van Don snout otter clam production association, said the clams were once extremely profitable. Farmers had to purchase breeds from different sources, including China, and a district-wide project to build a trademark for the clams and train farmers on career development was approved.

Currently, in the district, only 3,000 hectares of water surface were used to raise the clams, a reduction of 30 per cent compared to the same period of last year. This number was likely to continue declining, he said.

According to Ninh of the district's agriculture department, the provincial authority has agreed to give financial support to affected households, but none has yet received the money.

He said the authority would provide VND200 per breed to those who lost more than 70 per cent of their crops and VND100 per breed to those who lost between 30 and 70 per cent of their crops. However, households must show bills and other necessary papers to receive this support, and many farmers purchase breeds without clear origin, he said. — VNS