Drought killing Vietnamese shrimp hits seafood exports

By An Hong   June 13, 2016 | 07:37 pm GMT+7

Vietnam exports about $7 billion worth of seafood each year, mostly from waters off its southern coast, and the industry has started to feel the impact of the worst drought and saltwater intrusion in almost a century.

The southernmost province of Ca Mau, which accounts for 25 percent of the country’s shrimp production, will fall short of export targets this year.

The prolonged drought and salinity have affected more than 53,000 hectares of shrimp farms in Ca Mau and cost the province a total of VND260 billion ($11.6 million). The province has subsequently been forced to develop an emergency response plan for the local aquatic farms.

The province took the same action earlier this year after harsh weather conditions had destroyed more than 49,000 hectares of its rice crops.

Official statistics released by the local government show the total output of farmed shrimps in the first five months of this year has reached 134,000 tons and the output for the first six months is estimated to edge down three percent from the same time last year to 159,000 tons.

“The prolonged drought, accompanied with extensive saltwater intrusion, large changes in temperatures from the day to night, and other environmental factors have had a serious impact on shrimp farming,” said Chau Cong Bang, deputy head of Ca Mau's Agriculture and Rural Development Department.

The severe drought, drying up water resources and leading to extensive saltwater intrusion, has been the main reason preventing the shrimp from thriving.

According to the local government, diseases including red body, necrosis tail and white antennae or loose head have been reported to also appear at farming sites.

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Ca Mau has more than 52,000 hectares of shrimp farms, and the prolonged drought and salinity has cost the province a total of VND260 billion. Photo by VnExpress

“This year’s harsh weather has taken its toll on the shrimp output, which in turn will affect export volume. The continued lack of input materials has forced many seafood processing factories in Ca Mau to cut their operations, running at just 50-60 percent of their full capacity. That’s why Ca Mau has revised down 2016 export revenues to $1 billion from previously targeted $1.2 billion,” said Ngo Thanh Linh, chairman of the provincial association of seafood exporters and producers.

Ca Mau is forecast to export $416 million worth of seafood in the first half of this year, said local official, slightly down from a year before.

And shrimp exports will fall sharply in the coming months due mainly to dwindling material stockpiles.

In addition, local exporters will have to compete head to head with Chinese dealers in the Vietnamese market after Ecuador, China’s preferred shrimp supplier, was hit by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in April, severely affecting its shrimp industry.

Vietnam exported about $3 billion worth of shrimp last year.

The southernmost province of Ca Mau is the latest victim but definitely not the only one.

As of May 17, the drought had affected eight provinces in the Mekong Delta, resulting in 81,413 hectares of dead shrimp, according to Vietnam's Directorate of Fisheries.

The strongest El Nino in nearly 20 years, which has damaged crop production in Asia and caused food shortages, has ended. During the summer, rainfall could remain significantly below average in the central part of the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and southeastern Myanmar, according to AccruWeather. However, by the end of 2016, farmers will be looking for the development of a La Nina weather pattern, which typically brings wetter weather across the Asian region.

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Salt water drowns Mekong Delta shrimp industry