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Friday, March 19, 2010

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The Great Glaze

The heart of this problem

has been with unscrupulous distributors

selling to foodservice customers......John Sackton


John Sackton, editor at Seafood.com, an online, subscription-based, fisheries news service, has recently posted two articles about the glazes on processed seafood products (mostly shrimp) to his webpage.  The articles, based on a recent investigation by the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, explain how glazes affect the net weight of frozen shrimp products.



In the First Article, Sackton Says


The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection has tested 52 different packages of seafood and found that 50% of them were underweight because of a heavy glaze.  Once an item was declared underweight, the state removed all packages of that product from the retail location.  Altogether, the Department removed 847 individual seafood packages from sale at the tested retailers.  The Department says that excess glazing means that consumers were paying 4.5% for ice in each package.


The 52 tested items were picked from 20 retail locations around the state, and 26 of them were found to be underweight.  The impetus for the tests was a multi-state frozen seafood investigation in which Connecticut and 18 other states were looking at the problem of short weights in packaged seafood.  This suggests that Connecticut will not be the only state consumer protection agency to announce its results.


Some of the items were local products, and some were national brands.  Among the well-known shrimp brands found to have excessive glazing were Wal-Mart’s 60-80 P&D Shrimp, Sea Pearl 26-30 EZ–Peel White Shrimp, and Nautilus 16-20 and 31-40 EZ –Peel Shrimp.


Jerry Farrell, Jr., the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, said, “On average, a customer buying one of these short-weight packages would pay 50 cents on just ice, so the economic impact of just the 847 packages we removed was more than $425.  These short-weights are grossly unfair to the consumer, and quickly add up.  No one should be paying for excess ice on frozen seafood.”


Connecticut uses the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guidelines verifying how much the actual seafood weighs (the net weight).  Ice and glazing in seafood packages are not allowed to be counted in the net weight of the product.


“The Department of Consumer Protection is notifying the failed companies with our concerns about over-glazing and advising them to take immediate measures to comply with federal standards.  Once this investigation is completed, we may impose financial penalties on these companies,” Farrell said.



In the Second Article, Sackton Says


Many in the seafood industry support vigorous enforcement of net-weight standards and acknowledged the huge problem of cheating with short weights.  However, the heart of this problem has been with unscrupulous distributors selling to foodservice customers.


Since the product is used in restaurants, the end customer never knows about the short weight.  With shrimp, it is common to take a 2-kilogram box, weighing about 4.4 pounds, and repack it into a 5-pound domestic shrimp box, again, for foodservice sales.


The shrimp industry has become highly dependent on seafood processing plants in China, which is also where some of the biggest short-weight problems originate.  Unless this issue can be cleaned up and better addressed, it gives ammunition to those who want to shut off all seafood trade with China.  This is not a risk that should be taken lightly.  Those companies that are committed to 100% net weight, traceability and correct species names are going to find their business hurt because the confidence of their customers—both the major buyers and consumers—is being rapidly eroded as more problems come to light.


There is a lot of soaking, chemical treatments and other processing aids that are abused by the same companies willing to sell short weights.  Fraud, short weights, abusive processing and mislabeling are the issues that could influence a new generation of consumers to see seafood as risky.  And they won’t buy something when they don’t really know what they are paying for.


Sources: 1. Seafood.com (an online, subscription-based, fisheries news service).  Conn. Pulls Seafood Items from 20 Retailers for Short Weight, Many National Shrimp Brands Implicated.  Editor and Publisher, John Sackton (phone 1-781-861-1441, email jsackton@seafood.com).  February 22, 2010.  2. Seafood.com.  Short Weight Issue Not Black and White; Some Companies Say Connecticut Seized Product Passed USDC.  John Sackton.  Editor and Publisher, John Sackton.  February 23, 2010.



Country Reports


New $36 Million Shrimp Farm


Peter Garrett, Australia’s Environment Minister, has approved Pacific Reef Fisheries’ plans to build a 259-hectare shrimp farm adjacent to the Elliot River near Bowen, Queensland, despite the project’s proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Area.


The proposed $36.7 million farm hopes to grow 2,500 metric tons of giant tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) a year by 2012 and inject $26.6 million a year into Queensland’s economy.


To protect the World Heritage Area, the plan was approved with 19 conditions that set a good example of environmentally sustainable development.  Garrett said, “Under the conditional approval...Pacific Reef Fisheries will be required to monitor seagrass, coral and water quality in Abbot Bay, and provide regular results to my department.  ...Should the levels of nutrients and sediment entering the bay from the facility increase to above those I approved, operations must be reduced or stopped immediately, the incident must be reported to my department, and a review of processes must be done.”


The farm will be constructed in stages, so its impact on the Great Barrier Reef can be monitored.  Garrett said, “The reef must be protected not only as a priceless natural resource, but as a fundamental part of the Queensland economy.  ...This project demonstrates that positive environmental results can be achieved while also supporting employment and local economies.”


Before the facility is built, the design and operation arrangements must be independently assessed and certified.  The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says it will closely monitor the farm’s development, pointing out that several large projects proposed for the Bowen area could have a cumulative effect on the environment.


Sources: 1. 9News.  Govt Approves Qld Prawn Farm Near Reef.  Gabrielle Dunlevy.  March 5, 2010.  2. ABC News.  WWF to Monitor New Prawn Farm.  Josh Bavas.  March 8, 2010.


Response to EU Inspection


In late January 2010, a three-member European Union team inspected fish quality control laboratories, hatcheries and farms in southeast (Chittagong) and southwest (Khulna) Bangladesh.  After the visit, the team sent 12 recommendations to the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.  It requested that the Ministry report back within one month on the action taken on each of the recommendations.


Describing their visit as a follow-up to visits in 2008 and 2009, the EU team members said Bangladesh’s analytic laboratories were still not up to ISO 17025 standards.  They also noted a lack of expertise among lab personnel.  The team members said that some progress had been made in the validation of analytical methods since the previous visits.


Md. Imran, deputy secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, said the government plans to buy another LC-MS MS machine to test for antibiotics.


Source: The New Nation.  12-Point Recommendation Set: Response in a Month Sought for Shrimp Export to EU.  Mokarram Hossain.  March 9, 2010.


Barry Bowen Dies in Plane Crash


Perhaps the best-known shrimp farmer in the Western Hemisphere, Sir Barry Bowen, 64, died in a plane crash on Friday, February 26, 2010, at approximately 5:30 p.m.  Bowen was piloting his Cessna 206 when it crashed just short of the runway at San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, where he lived.


Bowen owned Belize Aquaculture, the first biofloc shrimp farm in the world.  Bowen also headed a group of companies that included the Belize Coca Cola franchise, the Belikin Brewery (the only brewery in Belize) the Ford Automobile Distributorship, the Chan Chic Tourism Lodge—and Belize Aquaculture, Ltd., one of the most advanced shrimp farms in the world.


Five other people, who were not associated with shrimp farming, died in the crash.


Shrimp News: I’m preparing a tribute to Sir Barry that will honor his contributions to world shrimp farming.  Please forward your comments and stories, and I will include them in the tribute.


Dozens of stories on Sir Barry’s death have appeared on the Internet.  Here are a few that I read recently:


The First Report of the Crash with Eyewitness Reports

Civil Aviation Authorities Discuss the Crash

More Aviation Reports


A Long Historical Obituary


Source: Belizean.  Belize Business Magnate Sir Barry Bowen Dies in Plane Crash.  February 27, 2010.


Death of the Industry


In October 2009, the national government initiated a process to register and regulate the country’s shrimp farming industry.  At that time, the National Aquaculture Chamber (CNA) supported the initiative because the initiative would help standardize industry practices.


On February 26, 2010, however, new amendments were added to the initiative that threaten to put large corporate farms out of business.


The new amendments:


• Cover all shrimp farming—not just shrimp farms on government concessions.


• Limit the size of farms to 50 hectares for individuals and 250 hectares for companies.


• In the case of private farms and farms on high ground, if they exceed the hectare limits through tricky maneuvering, they will lose their permits.


Cesar Monge, president of CNA, said the new amendments put the very future of shrimp farming in Ecuador at risk!


Source: FIS United StatesShrimp Farming Sector “In Danger of Death”: CNA.  Analia Murias (editorial@fis.com).  March 4, 2010.


El Niño


The moderate to strong El Niño is expected to continue at least into April/May 2010.


The majority of the El Niño computer models predict a transition to neutral conditions around June 2010.  Other models, however, suggest the potential of a continued weak El Niño throughout 2010, while still others predict the development of La Niña conditions later in the year.  Predicting when El Niño will dissipate and what may follow remains highly uncertain.


Expected climatic impacts during March–May 2010 include drier-than-normal conditions over Indonesia.


Source: Climate Prediction Center.  El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion (a downloadable PDF or Word file).  March 4, 2010.


Impact of Dumping


Anwar Hashim, President of the Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI), said dumping duties have had a major impact on shrimp exports to the USA.  Indian exports to the USA plummeted from $409 million in 2003 (just before the duties were imposed) to $142 million in 2008.  That fall occurred during a period when total USA shrimp imports rose from $3.76 billion to $4.09 billion.


The shrimp farming industry was hit hard by the dumping duties.  Almost 40 percent of the giant tiger farmers (Penaeus monodon) in the state of Andhra Pradesh went out of business.  Disease outbreaks and imports of cheaper white shrimp (P. vannamei) from other Asian countries also contributed to their problems.


Now, with the new availability of pathogen-free white shrimp seedstock (P. vannamei), which costs half as much to produce as giant tigers, shrimp farmers are slowly restarting their farms.


Source: Business Line.  Seafood Exporters’ Hopes Revive as US Economy Begins to Recover.  C.J. Punnathara.  March 4, 2010.


Shrimp Farmers Given Deadline on Sustainability


Shrimp farmers have been given until 2011 to improve the sustainability of their operations and obtain environmental certification through the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, an independent body sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund.


On March 9, 2010, Iman Musthofa Zainudin, WWF Indonesia’s fisheries program leader, said, the certification program “will be applied to both large-scale and small-scale shrimp growers to guarantee sustainable shrimp activity.”


ASC is still in the process of completing its certification standards, which were adopted from principles issued by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.


Ketut Sugama, an official at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said small-scale shrimp farmers will have difficulties meeting certification standards.  The Indonesian government might give them more time to bring their farms up to the new standards.  Imam said ASC would help small-scale farmers improve their farming methods.


Saut Hutagalung, director of foreign trade at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said he was concerned that becoming certified would not necessarily translate into shrimp growers getting better prices.


Source: Jakarta Globe.  Indonesian Shrimp Farmers Given 2011 Sustainability Deadline.  Arti Ekawati.  March 9, 2010.



Shrimp Farmers Want Government Help


A shrimp farmers group is urging the government to intervene in the market to help small-scale growers get higher prices for their shrimp.


On March 8, 2010, Nafian Faiz, general chairman of the Lampung branch of the Tiger Shrimp Plasma Growers Group, said that the government should set a minimum price for shrimp and pay the farmer the difference between the minimum price and the market price when he has to sell for less than the minimum price.


Currently, large-scale shrimp buyers are in a dominant position and control the prices paid to farmers, Nafian said.


Shrimp prices paid to farmers have dropped from $12.40 a kilogram in 2006 to around $6.80 a kilogram today.


Riza Damanik, coordinator of the Fisheries Justice Coalition, said small-scale shrimp farmers had very little bargaining power when dealing with large-scale buyers.  He said producer and processor PT Central Proteinaprima (CP Prima) bought around 70 percent of the shrimp produced by local farmers and that its dominant position contributed to low prices.


Riza also urged the government to improve the environmental regulation of the shrimp farming industry.  Unfettered expansion of shrimp farms is leading to too many farms that damage the environment and result in farmers having to use more antibiotics, he said.


The government is aiming to increase shrimp production from an expected 400,000 tons in 2010 to 700,000 tons by 2014.


Shrimp farmers have also been hit by the rising cost of feed, which increased by about 25 percent in 2009.  In January 2010, Suhana, a marine biologist at the Bogor Institute of Agriculture, suggested that the government should build local feed mills and use local ingredients to bring down prices.  Currently, about 40 percent of feed ingredients are imported.


Source: Jakarta Globe.  Indonesia’s Struggling Shrimp Farmers Want Govt to Get in the Pond to Help Lift Prices.  Arti Ekawati.  March 8, 2010.

Saudi Arabia

National Prawn Company Appoints Sales and Marketing Manager


National Prawn Company, the most successful shrimp farm in the Middle East, has hired Esam Yousef Sabr to market the company’s products within Saudi Arabia.  “Esam will bring a welcomed contribution of energy and experience to our sales and marketing efforts in the Kingdom”, said Engineer Ahmed Rashed Al-Ballaa, General Manager of NPC Saudi Arabia, “especially as we are about to launch our new range of [fresh] products, which is not only a first for Saudi Arabia, but for the rest of the Gulf markets as well.  It is a very exciting time for the company.”


Information: Laurence Cook, Director, Corporate Communications (phone +966-555071460 and +966-26638464); and Suhaib Alwazir, Managing Partner, Adalid Public Relations (phone +966 503116947 and +966 22631720).


Source: Zawya.  NPC Appoints Sales and Marketing Manager for Saudi Arabia.  March 1, 2010.

United States

Texas—Aquaculture of Texas, Inc., Prawn PLs Available


Over the last 24 years, Craig Upstrom, owner of Aquaculture of Texas, Inc., a freshwater prawn hatchery in Weatherford, Texas, has sold over 70 million freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) postlarvae to small-scale prawn farmers in the United States.  Upstrom is now working through regional prawn nurseries in Illinois, Alabama, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Missouri and Texas to distribute larger, juvenile animals to his customers.


A recent postcard advertisement from Aquaculture of Texas said:


• Local experts will advise you with regional conditions and farming techniques

• Get the highest quality and best prices

• Only prawn hatchery producing year round

• Oldest and largest freshwater prawn hatchery in the USA

• Will advise you on all phases of production

• We deliver

• Certified disease free in Arkansas and Texas

• Call for free growout manual

• Hatchery, nursery and pond tours available


Information: Craig Upstrom, Aquaculture of Texas, Inc., 4141 East IH-20 Service Road North, Weatherford, Texas 76087, USA (phone 1-817-594-4872, email upstrom5@airmail.net, webpage http://www.aquacultureoftexas.com).


Source: Postcard from Craig Upstrom.  Received February 25, 2010.

United States

Washington DC—World Wildlife Fund Announces Shrimp Standards


On March 1, 2010, the World Wildlife Fund posted its draft standards for shrimp farming to its website.  Feedback received during the 60-day public-comment period will be used to revise the draft standards, and then they will be posted again for a final review.  The final shrimp standards are expected by the end of 2010.


“We are committed to hearing from and listening to as many people as possible before this process ends,” said Dominique Gautier of Aqua Star, who is on the Shrimp Dialogue’s steering committee.  “Their input will help guarantee that the final standards offer a progressive definition of responsible shrimp farming.”


The standards will be amended periodically to reflect changes in science and technology, as well as to encourage innovation and continuous improvement.  These revisions will be coordinated by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), the new entity being developed to manage the standards, and the process will include many of the shrimp dialogue participants.


To review the draft shrimp standards and enter your comments, go to http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/globalmarkets/aquaculture/dialogues-shrimp.html.


Information: Eric Bernard, WWF US, Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue Coordinator, 1 Carrefour de Longchamps, 75016 Paris, France (cell phone 00-33-6-98405393, email ebernard@wwf.fr, website: http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/globalmarkets/aquaculture/dialogues-shrimp.html).


Sources: 1. Email to Shrimp News International from Steve Ertel at the World Wildlife Fund.  Subject: Global Shrimp and Abalone Aquaculture Standards Released.  March 1, 2010.  2. Email to Shrimp News International from Eric Bernard at the World Wildlife Fund.  Subject: Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue Starts Its First Public Comment Period.  March 4, 2010.



Expansion of Vannamei


The cost of farming white shrimp (Penaeus vannamei) is currently around $1.56 a kilogram, or just half that of giant tiger shrimp (P. monodon).


At markets in the Mekong Delta, white shrimp now sell for $3.14 to $4.19 a kilogram, the highest price in the last two years, up by $0.52 to $1.05 from last month.


Farmers earn a profit of $6,800 to $7,800 per hectare at these prices, according to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors (VASEP).


Although tiger shrimp remain the key export item for the seafood sector, white shrimp exports are expected to increase significantly, and may reach $500 to $600 million in 2010, due to its low production costs.  Last year the country exported more than 50,000 metric tons of white shrimp, valued at $300 million.


Japan, the biggest buyer of Vietnam’s shrimp, is likely to increase its proportion of white shrimp imports to 18 percent this year.


Source: Seafood.com (an online, subscription-based, fisheries news service).  Vietnam to Expand White Shrimp Production to 18 Percent, Black Tigers Will Still Dominate.  Ken Coons (phone 1-781-861-1441, email kencoons@seafood.com).  Editor and Publisher, John Sackton (phone 1-781-861-1441, email jsackton@seafood.com).  March 3, 2010.


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