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January 5, 2016


Problems Continue in the Mekong Delta—An Update


Shrimp farming produced a rapid transformation in the quality of life for many people in the Mekong Delta, but the unplanned expansion in production has had negative effects on the environment and lead to diseases on the farms.


Fifteen years ago, farmers in Ben Tre Province started to switch from rice cultivation to shrimp farming.  As a result, after a few years, Thanh Phuoc Commune changed from a poor community to a wealthy one, and the number of households with annual revenues of more than $50,000 increased rapidly.  Ngo Van Thu, a shrimp farmer in Thanh Phuoc Commune, said the land had not yet been over exploited at that time, so the water resources were abundant and the clean environment supported good shrimp production.


Now, as a result of the rapid growth of shrimp farming—coupled with a weak infrastructure—disease outbreaks, shrimp mortalities and huge losses for farmers are common.  Ngo Van Thu said he stopped farming three years ago.  “The more I raised, the more money I lost,” he said.  “Shrimp died of unknown causes.”  Ngo Van Hung, Thu’s brother, attempted two crops in 2015 and lost over $2,700.


Similarly, in Tra Vinh Province, where the water control systems are inefficient, experienced shrimp farmers are losing crops to disease.


Huynh Phuoc Hai, a farmer in Kien Giang Province, said, “It’s clear that the farming environment is being seriously polluted.  Along one canal, many households scrambled for water, and when shrimps get diseases, they discharged the contaminated waste, making way for pathogens to disperse.”


Vo Hong Ngoan, a long-term shrimp farmer in Bac Lieu Province, said the environment is so polluted that farmers use antibiotics to prevent diseases.  Consequently, in the last two years, 32,000 metric tons of Vietnamese aquaculture products (mainly shrimp) have been rejected by importers because of antibiotic contamination.  In the first nine months of 2015, 38 foreign countries returned 582 batches of aquaculture products to Vietnam.  Ngoan said there are various types of antibiotics for sale, but farmers are mostly unaware of their toxicological effects.  On the other hand, processing factories keep buying shrimp without proper inspection, so farmers continue using antibiotics.


Tran Quoc Tuan, director of the Industry and Trade Department of Tra Vinh Province, said he supported efforts to tighten the management of antibiotic use on shrimp farms and encouraged the dissemination of information on antibiotics to farmers and processing companies.  He said state management agencies have to make farmers aware of the risks and processors must change their way of doing business by co-operating with farmers to encourage clean practices.  He said seedstock, farming methods, feeds and medicines must be strictly controlled in order to produce quality products.


Source: The Voice of Vietnam.  Shrimp Farming in Vietnam: The Search for Sustainability.  January 5, 2016.

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