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Thailand's growing seafood exports should surpass $2 billion this year.

Thailand's Growing Seafood Exports Should Surpass $2 Billion This Year

The export value of seafood products from Thailand is expected to top US$ 2 billion during 1991, according to Dr. Plodprasop Suraswadi, director general of the Department of Fisheries. Noting that marine products are among the country's top 10 earners of foreign exchange, he said that Thailand ranks as the world's seventh largest fishing nation and is the third leading exporter of seafood.

While some three million tons of marine products are landed annually in the Kingdom - mostly from high sea catches - the most dramatic development in recent years has been on the aquaculture scene. Upwards of 120,000 tons of farmed shrimp were produced in 1990, almost equaling the amount harvested from the sea. Cultured black tigers (Penaeus monodon) accounted for 100,000 of the total, up 11.1% from the previous year.

Thailand is now rated as the top producer of black tigers in the world, according to the Bangkok Bank Ltd research department. With output growing at an annual clip of 30% since 1987, the species represents about 33% of total shrimp production.

Thai farmers are outstripping volume in Taiwan (which once was by far the leading producer in the world) by a ratio of more than two to one. However, close attention is being paid to water pollution problems in hopes of avoiding large scale disease outbreaks that wreaked havoc on the Chinese island's shrimp culture industry several years ago. And while some farms in the Gulf provinces have already fallen victim to environmental degradation, output is rising along the eastern seaboard and in the south.

As for 1990, the Bangkok Bank reported a good year for shrimp farmers, as prices remained firm. Black tiger packs of 30 pieces per kilo rose steadily from 150 baht (The baht was 25.2 to the dollar in Dec. 1990, vs. 25.7 in Dec. 1989) in January to 190 in June, before peaking at 205 in October. But by December the price fell to 140 baht because of allegations by inspectors in Tokyo that chemical residues were found in imports. The fact that stocks had been built up to a high level in Japan also played a major part in the slide.

On average, though, prices of 160 to 170 baht per kilo last year compared favorably to the 120 to 130 baht range in 1989. On the export side, some 83,823 tons valued at 20,961 baht were sold abroad in 1990 compared to 74,294 tons worth 16,057 million baht the previous year. That reflects respective rises of 12.8% and 30.5%.

Forecasts for 1991 call for exports to hit 91,000 (+8.6%) tons worth about 22,000 (+8.8%) million baht. The bank bases these numbers on growth in demand of 6% to 7%. It may take greater efficiencies to achieve this, however, as the expansion of Thai shrimp farms has slowed recently. The Bangkok Post newspaper endeavored to explain why in a recent business report:

"Farmers lack understanding about water pollution control and proper construction of water drainage systems. This has led to water pollution in prawn farms - particularly along the coast in the central region - totalling hundreds of thousands of rai."

The newspaper continued: "Fortunately prawn culture in the south and on the eastern seaboard has expanded further, making up for the loss in the central region. Thus it is estimated that production of prawns, the majority being the black tiger variety, will increase by 20%. In consequence, the combined production from natural sources and prawn culture farms will total around 240,000 tons in 1990, an increase of roughly 10% over the previous year."

Seed money continues to be pumped into new shrimp farming enterprises. A senior executive of Charoen Pokphrand North East [which is an affiliate of CP Group, the country's largest agro-industrial conglomerate] advised: "We are interested in investing in black tiger prawn farming because of the increasing demand. The increasing number of cold storage projects has also encouraged the company to become involved in these plans because the return on investment in black tiger prawn farming is still high."

Among other outfits devoting resources to shrimp culture are:

* Chanthaburi Aquatic Animal Culture, which spent 66 million baht to set up Kamong Farm, and invested another 22 million baht to build Kung Vimarn Shrimp Farm. The former is expected to produce 440 tons annually, while the latter is a hatchery.

* Trat Prawn Culture Co. has invested an undisclosed sum in Taprik Farm, which has annual capacity for black tiger output of 363 tons.

Vietnam's Potential

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Vietnam saw its exports of frozen prawns to Japan rise 60% last year. According to the Bangkok Post:

"In 1990 Vietnam became a rising star ... It has a long coastline suitable for prawn culture, while fishery resources in Vietnamese territorial waters abound. Nonetheless, it has a rather long way to go before it succeeds in developing its frozen prawn industry to a level where it can compete effectively in the world market."

With the thaw in cold war politics between East and West, Thailand and Vietnam have formally agreed to jointly develop their fishery industries and to further strengthen bilateral relations. The two countries have agreed to cooperate for 20 years in developing fishing, cold storage, aquaculture, processing and other related industries.

Among the first offshoots of the new relationship is a joint venture between Thai-Vietnam Fisheries Co. of Thailand and South-West Fisheries Exploitation and Services Co. of Vietnam. The union will see the eventual establishment of a 150-vessel fleet capable of handling more than 50,000 tons of marine products per year.
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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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