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Small Shrimp Farms Near Extinction

By Heng Sok Chheng, Phnom Pehn Post, Cambodia 
     Darunee Surapanpitak, The Nation, Thailand

Thailandís small-scale shrimp farming is on the verge of collapse because of the high cost of technology required for a sustainable industry, according to a leading Thai ecologist.
 
The technology costs nearly 200,000Baht per rai for a three-month crop and includes high quality feed, chemicals, antibiotics and engineering works to avoid soil and water pollution.
 
Dr. Somsak Boromthanarat, director of the Coastal Resources Institute (CORIN) at Prince of Songkla University (PSU), said, as a result, 50 percent of remaining small-scale shrimp farming will be taken over by the large-scale Bangkok-based operations or foreign investors and by the year 2005 nearly all will have quit the industry.
 
According to CORIN figures, about 80 percent of the small-scale shrimp businesses have already shut down.
 
Dr. Somsak said it is not good for outsiders to take over from local owners because they do not care about the environment or peopleís livelihood.
 
"They donít concern themselves about the area. What they concern themselves about is only profit. Then they leave the workers to fend for themselves," Dr. Somsak said.
 
He said about 20,000 small-scale shrimp farm owners will have to change their livelihood and about 60,000 workers will have to look for other jobs.

 "I have nothing to do because my business has failed"
 
Chan Rakkamon is a case in point. ďI have nothing to do right now because our business has already failed and I canít even return to being a rice farmer.
 
"Two of my four sons left home to work in the city because they could not survive with this business any more," said Chan, a 75-year-old shrimp farmer in Plai Sai village, Nakhon Si Thammarat province.
 
Chan sold 40 of 51 rai of his rice farm to investors and, with the 400,000 Baht from the land sale, started a shrimp business run by his four sons on the remaining 11 rai.
 In the beginning, their business had its ups and down, but for the last two years it has mostly been down, he said.
 
He is worried that his remaining business will die in the next few months because two of his sons cannot afford to stay with it any longer.
 
The major problems connected with raising shrimp are yellow head disease, soil erosion and polluted water quality.
 
Dr. Somsak said the government needs a clear policy to sustain shrimp development.
 
Thailand has been the worldís leading exporter of shrimp. The total value of exports is $2 billion a year, giving Thailand 40 percent of the world market, according to government figures.
 
Dr. Somsak said support for the small-scale farmers is needed from the government, NGOs and the large-scale companies. Otherwise they will not survive.
 
However, he added large-scale companies have expressed interest in helping, but the small ones havenít accepted the idea yet, for fear they may be taken advantage of.

Copyright 2009 IMMF.