Production of vannamei shrimp in India is likely to stabilise after reaching 4,00,000 tonne due to stress factors, a veteran seafood exporter said. Vannamei shrimps were introduced in India in 2009 and have expanded rapidly relative to traditional black tiger prawns. Last year, India exported nearly 1,70,000 tonne of vannamei which helped the export sector gain handsomely in most advanced markets due to the competitiveness of vannamei when compared to black tiger.
Most countries engaged in vannamei have seen production grow rapidly in the first few years and then slow down due to various factors, Anwar Hashim, MD of Abad Fisheries and former president of Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI) told FE.
“In India, we are also experiencing a resistance to further growth with farmers unable to get the desired size and quantity. This may be due to factors like spurious seeds, high density stocking, climatic changes or stunted growth, but resistance is visible,” he added. “Demand for vannamei is surging, with global supply cut drastically short by the disease early mortality syndrome (EMS). Some hatcheries are even exporting smaller count vannamei due to the surge in price. Spurious seeds and broods are finding market due to the demand,” a shrimp farmer from Nellore said.
Prawn Farmers Federation of India reports that by 2015, vannamei farms could be as large as 1, 50,000 ha (hectares) from the current 80,000 ha. But the federation is concerned that producers could eventually see returns declining as EMS hit countries start to recover.
Rabobank estimates Indian vannamei production to increase five-fold in the near future. It reports that India, among others, has the potential to increase shrimp production many times its current production due to its large river systems providing ideal shrimp farming conditions.
India was forced to adopt vannamei or white shrimp due to competitive reasons. Black tiger (monodon) shrimps have higher production cost and lower yield than vannamei.
According to SEAI sources, vannamei costs $2.29 per kg to produce, which is only half the production cost for the Indian species. Farmers can produce 20 tonne of small to medium vannamei per hectare, but only 2-3 tonne of large monodon per hectare.
With shrimp diseases still ravaging black tiger farms, the survival rate of shrimp in most of farms is about 40%. The price of this farmed variety is at least 15% than vannamei in the global market. Vannamei’s survival rate is close to 95-98% compared to the black tigers 40%.
Dependency on one type of shrimp is one of the challenges facing the Indian shrimp industry as vannamei slowly eats into black tiger farming. The case of Thailand which fell prey to EMS is a pointer. Production in Thailand fell from 6,40,000 tonne in 2010 to less than 2,00,000 tonne in 2013.