Disease Wipes Out More Than 50% Of Thai Shrimp Output
Thai shrimp production is on track to halve from its peak this year as disease sweeps through the country's farms, ramping up pressure on the government to secure enough supply for consumers at home while supporting small-scale producers, Kosuke Inoue reported for Nikkei Asia.
Photo Insert: Shrimp is critical to Thai society, not just as a key ingredient in local dishes like tom yum soup but as an economic driver.
Shrimp is critical to Thai society, not just as a key ingredient in local dishes like tom yum soup but as an economic driver. Farmed black tiger and whiteleg shrimp are among the country's key exports.
The industry has suffered heavily from illnesses like early mortality syndrome over the past 10-plus years. Thai shrimp production is expected to fall to 270,000 metric tons (MT) this year from a peak of over 600,000 (MT) around 2011.
The country was the world's top exporter of shrimp until 2012 but had fallen behind India and Ecuador by 2016, according to the Central Bank of Thailand.
In August, the Thai government made the unusual decision to import around 10,000 MT of shrimp from Ecuador and India in response to the growing shortage at home. "All stakeholders agreed to allow imports," Chalermchai Suwannarak, director general at the Thai Department of Fisheries, said early last month.
In addition, the government and shrimp farmers in August set a guaranteed minimum price of 119 to 180 baht ($3.16 to $4.75) per kilogram to protect local production.
Still, there is concern that increasing the domestic shrimp supply through exports could drive prices down. Many of Thailand's roughly 30,000 shrimp farmers run extremely small operations and have less bargaining power than processing companies, which have been buying at or around the floor price.
Worries are rising that more shrimp farmers could exit the industry, hindering a recovery in domestic production. Ensuring a stable supply will require significant spending on research, including on ways to prevent the spread of diseases.