|Farmers harvest blue-legged prawns in southern Dong Thap Province. They reap high profits from aquaculture thanks to heavy floods. — VNA/VNS Photo
HCM CITY (VNS) — Farming blue-legged giant prawns in paddy fields during the flooding season in Dong Thap Province has brought high profits for farmers in recent years.
Many farmers began breeding the prawns after harvesting their winter-spring rice crop this year. Dong Thap floods more heavily than other provinces in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta.
In Tam Nong District, farmers adjusted their paddy embankments and used lime to sterilise fields in addition to putting up stakes and nets in surrounding fields.
Tam Nong District has the largest blue-legged giant prawn breeding area in Dong Thap.
Nguyen Thanh Cong, who has bred the prawns in Tam Nong's Phu Binh B Commune for seven years, said he had been breeding prawns over a 5.5ha area.
Blue-legged giant prawns grow rapidly when flood waters are high. Flooding conditions also provide an abundance of food for the prawns.
Cong started breeding prawns in June. The prawns take about six months to grow to full size.
In the delta, the annual flood season caused by the rising water levels of the Mekong River usually begins in August and lasts about five months.
Breeding blue-legged giant prawns in the flood season also brings other benefits for paddy fields as flood waters bring fertile silt into the fields, benefiting the next rice crop.
Last year, Cao Lanh had 124ha of blue-legged giant prawn and harvested a total of 234 tonnes, according to Nguyen Minh Khoa, deputy head of the Cao Lanh's Fisheries Station.
Farmers earned a profit of VND80-100 million ($3,800-4,700) per ha for each prawn crop last year, Khoa said.
Some farmers earned VND120-140 million ($5,700-6,600) per ha, four to five times higher than rice cultivation, he said.
However, to ensure stable outlets for the prawns, farmers need to join cooperatives. With such an arrangement, farmers could more easily sign contracts with companies to buy animal feed, medicines and quality prawn fries at reasonable prices.
Currently, blue-legged giant prawns are bought domestically and not exported, as supply has not met local demand.
Dong Thap plans to breed about 1,200ha of blue-legged giant prawns in this year's flooding season.
According to Nhu Van Can, deputy director of the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that blue-legged giant prawns play a secondary role after tra fish in the province's freshwater aquatic cultivation.
The rotation of rice and blue-legged giant prawn cultivation in paddy fields promotes sustainable cultivation and production.
However, the province still lacks a sufficient supply of prawn fries.
In addition, farmers have been reluctant to invest in breeding prawns because of changing weather patterns and the higher expense.
Farmers in Dong Thap now have to buy prawns from other provinces or countries such as Thailand.
Under the provincial People's Committee's plan to develop blue-legged giant prawn to 2020, Dong Thap targets having 4,000 ha of blue-legged giant prawns with an output of 6,400 tonnes in 2015, and 6,000ha in 2020 with an output of 9,600 tonnes.
Can said to develop cultivation sustainably, the shortage of prawn fries should be solved first.
Last year, more than 20 provinces and cities nationwide bred blue-legged giant prawns in a total area of 12,299ha.
Of the figure, the Cuu Long Delta accounted for 12,250ha, or 99.6 per cent, according to the Directorate of Fisheries.
However, provinces and cities that breed blue-legged giant prawns can only supply 40-50 per cent of prawn fries for local farmers.
According to Nguyen Thanh Vu of the National Breeding Centre for Southern Freshwater Aquaculture said breeding the prawns has more advantages than other freshwater species as it requires less investment capital, and has fewer risks and more stable prices. Farming techniques are uncomplicated as well.
Blue-legged giant prawns can be bred in ponds and paddy fields, and with other fish species.
To increase the supply of fries, the Dong Thap People's Committee agreed to allow Ba Tong, a company that produces and trades the giant prawns, to set up a farm that produces blue-legged giant prawn fries.
The farm, which is expected to be put into operation this year, will be able to produce about 130 million fries a year, helping to ensure fry supply for local farmers. — VNS