Shrimp production seen falling to 60,000 MT

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The country’s shrimp output this year may decline to around 60,000 metric tons (MT) from an average of 65,000 MT, as tepid demand and high input costs prompted producers to tweak their operations, industry players said.

Chris Co, member of the Philippine Shrimp Industry Inc. (PhilShrimp), said total shrimp production this year may settle at 60,000 MT due to challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and rising input costs.

“A lot of the farms on the ground adjusted their production levels, reducing stocking densities as a result of the lockdown and slow down in economy,” Co said during a virtual press briefing for the biennial 13th PhilShrimp Congress.

Co said the shrimp industry was not spared from the global logistics problems as the rise in freight costs and more expensive raw materials have led to higher production costs. Worse, farm-gate prices dropped earlier this year due to low demand.

Nonetheless, Co said the industry remains optimistic that production would slowly regain its footing as demand picks up following the easing of quarantine restrictions in the country and opening up of the economy.

“There has been a quick uptick in farm-gate prices by as much as P50 per kilogram in the past month, which reflects the gradual opening of the economy. This encourages farmers to increase their stocking or restock their idle ponds in the next three to five months,” he said.

“We all hope that prices will continue to increase. Historical figures show that farm-gate prices peak in December, which is carried over until January and February of the following year.”

National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Undersecretary Mercedita A. Sombilla noted that the country’s shrimp and prawn industry is a multimillion industry, contributing to both local fisheries production and export performance.

However, Sombilla said the current status of the local shrimp industry is a “stark contrast” to its glory days in the early 1990s when its export value was worth $273 million and production reached beyond 130,000 metric tons (MT).

Sombilla said the average shrimp and prawn production today is around 67,500 MT. She attributed the decline in output to a series of bacterial outbreaks that devastated numerous shrimp breeding facilities nationwide in recent decades.

Nonetheless, Sombilla said shrimp and prawn production remains as one of the bright spots in the country’s agriculture sector as it ranked 24th in terms of exports last year, contributing $230 million in export receipts. The shrimp and prawn industry also accounts for 20.5 percent of total aquaculture production, she added.

The Neda official said there are still growth opportunities in the shrimp and prawn industry as the vast majority of areas nationwide remain untapped for aquaculture production, considering the archipelagic nature of the country.

“Harnessing these available areas for production can increase the potential contribution of shrimp to aquaculture, which until now is being dominated by milkfish and tilapia,” she said during the 13th PhilShrimp Congress.

“Expanding shrimp and prawn production areas is one part of the challenge. There are other challenges that have to be hurdled as well.”

The challenges that the domestic shrimp industry face today include persistence of diseases, high costs of inputs, unsustainable aquaculture practices, and vulnerability to extreme weather conditions and impact of climate change, Sombilla said.

“The most recent challenges relate to the Covid-19 pandemic which affected the demand for commodities like shrimp and prawn. Community quarantines affected local value chains which hampered access of both consumers and producers to markets.”

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