Asian exporter: Disease will be key factor for 2013 : February 1, 2013
Neil Ramsden : Undercurrentnews
The disease problems affecting the Asian shrimp industry are serious enough to be the “key factor” affecting business there this year, Jim Gulkin, CEO of Siam Canadian, told Undercurrent News.
Consumption across Asia has largely continued to grow, as economies have varied in terms of success of late, he added.
“The [disease] problem is serious, it’s very difficult to pinpoint exactly how big the problem is, and it’s also difficult to know exactly what the problem is,” he said.
What is certain though is that Thailand’s production is going to be down substantially this year, he said.
Siam Canadian has seen disease problems affect the continent in the past.
From 2010 – 11 Thailand has been experiencing disease, and although at that time they were not well-publicised, Thai production dropped considerably, said Gulkin.
“Vietnam had major crop failures in 2011 – 12, Indonesia did much better in 2012, they had disease problems in 2008 – 09,” he said.
“2010 there were still problems, 2011 there was some improvement, then they seemed to get back on their feet last year but now they’ve got some new disease problems.”
The unknown problem
“Everyone talks about EMS [early mortality syndrome] – some of the disease is EMS, but a lot of it people are just using that word. That’s one disease that’s prevalent but it’s not just that one, there’s other diseases that have been around for a long time that are popping up as well,” said Gulkin.
Some broodstock producers, such as Charoen Pokphand (CP Foods), who hold a 60-70% share of Thai shrimp hatcheries, are pointing the finger at farmers for over-using ponds.
Not taking the time to dry them out and clean them may be allowing pathogens to build up, causing crop failures through disease.
“The other important thing is, how many years is it going to take to get this cleaned up? Hopefully this is not a five-year problem but a two or three- year problem”
“Farmers on the other hand are saying that’s not the only part of the equation, the other part is problems with the broodstock, with larvae, the shrimp fry themselves,” he said.
“I personally think it’s a combination, I think there are problems with post-larva, with fry coming out of the hatcheries, and problems with the farms themselves, so it’s a combination, and what percentage is what, who knows.”
The other important question in the long-term is how many years the impact of the disease problems would be felt, said Gulkin.
“Hopefully this is not a five year problem, but a two or three year problem.”
Growing Asian consumption
While economies on the Asian continent vary in health, consumption in Asia would continue to grow through 2013, Gulkin said.
Though China’s economy slowed in 2012, consumption of less expensive seafood items such as vannamei and tilapia continued to grow.
Indonesia’s economy is doing very well, and Thailand’s is healthy, said Gulkin, meaning consumption is likely to continue to grow there.
“Vietnam has got some problems, [but] it’s probably the most dynamic [economy] over the last couple years,” he said.
“Certain sectors of Vietnam’s economy are quite vibrant and healthy, but there’s problems with a lot of it, with inflation and extremely high interest rates, and other problems as well in their banking system. But overall the Asian economies are quite strong, vibrant, and consumption will continue to grow in Asia.”