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February 19, 2016


First Organic Shrimp Farm


Surakit Laeaddee’s shrimp farm is the first to be certified as organically managed in Thailand.  Farmers like Surakit are sharing best practices with their neighbors and across the country.  Fifteen other farmers living nearby are on track to be certified this year, which would increase the organic shrimp farming area in the community tenfold, to almost 100 hectares.


Organic yields are much lower than those from intensive shrimp farms, but the shrimp from organic farms are much larger.  Surakit says he raises two to five shrimp per square meter, compared to 20 to 30 per square meter on intensive farms.  His organic shrimp sell at a higher price—up to $27 per kilo, compared to $14 per kilo for the largest shrimp from intensive farms.  Furthermore, his operating costs are lower, and his organic ponds have a longer life span than intensively farmed ponds, which often become so overrun by disease and pollution they are abandoned.


“I hope the community will become more conscious about the importance of planting trees and looking after the ecosystem in order to raise seafood sustainably and prevent coastal erosion,” he said.  Too many trees invite birds that prey on shrimp.  But planting just enough, on a fifth of his 10 hectares, cools the ponds and improves soil and water quality, boosting the health, reproduction and survival of his shrimp.


 “A shift from intensive farming to more natural farming is more sustainable in the long run,” said Supranee Kampongsun of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  “It gives marine species natural spawning grounds and improves the mangrove ecosystem.”


A 1961 survey along Thailand’s 3,100-kilometer coastline tallied 368,000 hectares of mangrove forests, which include more than 70 tree species–from typical mangroves hovering above water with buttressed roots to giant nipa palms.  Over half a century later, a third of that area has been lost, leaving 246,000 hectares, according to the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.  About 70,000 hectares are used for aquaculture, mostly shrimp.


In Thailand, the destruction of mangroves for shrimp leveled off about 10 years ago, but the government is struggling to restore the barren lands, said Somsak Piriyayota, director of the mangrove resource conservation office.  “The issue today is how do we change that land for shrimp back into mangroves,” Somsak said, noting some mangroves have been inhabited by communities for generations.  “The policy has allowed for them to live there, but the ecosystem is deteriorating.  We have to solve this problem, yet we have to give them the right to a livelihood as well.”


The Thai Department of Fisheries is encouraging more environment-friendly production systems to avoid disease and decrease pollution.  That includes planting trees to act as a filtration system, using natural rather than artificial feed, and steering clear of pesticides, fungicides and antibiotics.


In Vietnam, more than 700 farmers are certified organic and selling to European markets.


Source:  Farming Shrimp Organically in Thailand.  Alisa Tang.  February 16, 2016.

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