Although there has been much talk about the benefits of semi-intensive farming, there has been a lack of concerted efforts to expand it. It is difficult to invest in shrimp farming as access to finance is a huge challenge. There has to be a strong focus on incentivizing the farmers and investors by ensuring low-interest credit facilities and insurance coverage. Case studies from major shrimp exporting countries like India, Ecuador, and Vietnam should be analyzed to understand how they have supported and encouraged their farmers and investors. In Bangladesh, potential investors fear the high risk of losing their money as natural calamities can affect shrimp production. A strong mechanism is required to give them confidence that their investments in this industry will be safe and profitable.
Semi-intensive farming requires importing broods with 58% import duty since locally produced broods are often infected with WSSV. Ensuring duty-free imports of broods can help in the expansion of semi-intensive farming.
Intensive or semi-intensive farming can ensure traceability of shrimps which is impossible to achieve in traditional farming. Farmers and investors need to be supported with policies that will ensure lower input costs and encourage them to adopt semi-intensive farming.
It is important to consider the improvement in the production of Monodon before delving into marketing strategies. As farms are not able to utilize their full capacity for production, it is difficult for them to sustain their businesses. Farm owners have to take the burden of fixed cost expenditures and bank loan payments. They struggle to keep their businesses afloat, which may push them towards unethical practices to keep the farms operational and continue exports by any means necessary.
There has to be a consensus at the national level to develop the Bangladesh shrimp industry as one of the prominent players in the global market. In the last twenty years, this industry has not progressed as much as its other international competitors. Shrimp exports from Bangladesh have been mostly limited to the global HORECA market which does not help establish the Bangladeshi brand. Source destination of the shrimps is not a concern for the customers when they place an order in hotels and restaurants. However, in retail markets, consumers care about the origin of the shrimp when they make their purchase decisions. But Bangladeshi shrimp exports are yet to penetrate the international retail market in large quantities.
Bangladesh used to have an upper hand in Monodon exports. There has been an emerging trend in the last three months where buyers of Bangladeshi Monodon shrimps have placed orders in India due to lower prices. This indicates that India has found ways to optimize its production and hence, it can offer competitive prices to attract international shrimp buyers. A set of measures for improved integration in the value chain, subsidized utility prices and insurance coverage for farms, and reduction in post-harvesting loss could have proven to be beneficial for India. It is certain that without strengthening the value chain and developing the capacity to export quality products, the marketing efforts will fall short. At this crucial juncture, there is a scope for massive reform in the industry as broader collaboration and innovations can contribute to taking shrimp exports to the next level. To this end, it is imperative to widely disseminate factual insights and findings from the industry analysis to all the relevant stakeholders as well as arrange comprehensive dialogues at the national level to devise a growth strategy.
Some of the key areas that need to be addressed include updating the national data on shrimp farming, supporting semi-intensive farmers for Vannamei production, providing quality broods and developing the capacity of traditional farmers, and focusing on the opportunity for freshwater shrimp production and exports to enter the global cruise-liner segment.
During the first phase of piloting Vannamei production last year, 8900 kg/ha of Vannamei were harvested. The production is anticipated to rise to 10,000 kg/ha this year. The government has to put an end to the pilot program and allow the farms to start commercial farming of Vannamei to increase its production. Additionally, importing broods for Vannamei farming will not be profitable. Local producers need to be equipped with the technical expertise to produce broods in the country. There is a strong demand among semi-intensive farmers to start production of Vannamei once the government approves. To determine the future of Vannamei cultivation in Bangladesh, there is a need for enhanced consultation and interaction between the government and value chain actors.
It is evident that the Bangladesh shrimp industry is facing a crisis. As a first step towards identifying the challenges, data on total arable land for shrimp aquaculture and the volume of annual shrimp production should be verified and updated. In the past, six to seven years, barely 30–35 thousand metric tons of shrimp have been exported yearly, compared to the installed production capacity of 4 lakh metric tons of shrimp annually. A thorough examination of this industry is required to comprehend the obstacles to increased shrimp exports. There is an opportunity to boost shrimp export earnings by leveraging value-added shrimp products. However, Bangladesh is falling behind and is unable to take advantage of this opportunity as of now.
Moreover, Bangladesh has a big opportunity to enter the processed ready-to-eat market, but it requires low-cost inputs that Vannamei can offer. Due to the country’s LDC status till 2025, exporters can take advantage of tariff-free access to global markets. If prompt policies are developed and put into place to capitalize on this potential, it may result in more opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship in the nation as well as higher export earnings.
To encourage the expansion of the shrimp sector, the government can implement measures such as establishing a one-stop service center for shrimp producers and exporters, providing crop insurance for shrimp farmers, and facilitating easy access to low-interest financing facilities. In addition to Monodon and freshwater scampi farming, the government should focus on promoting the production of high-yield species like Vannamei.
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