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The Rise and Fall of a Shrimp Farm

in South Africa



Laurence Evans has compiled a remarkable amount of data on the shrimp farm he managed in South Africa and published it as a 77-page report that chronicles his battle to make the farm work.  That battle came to an end in 2004.  His biggest enemies were a short season (29° S Lat), foreign shrimp imports and, in the end, the crushing drop in shrimp prices from 2000 to 2004.


In the report, Evans lays out every aspect of the farm’s operation.  He lists every piece of equipment, all his supplies and suppliers, all his feed formulations, even his sales and production figures.  He uses maps, 27 color photographs, 17 tables, 9 charts and 7 pages of references to bring the farm back to life as a PDF.


Shrimp News emailed Evans, who some of you may know from his occasional comments on the Shrimp List, and asked him what he was up to now.


Laurence Evans: I have been unemployed for most of 2009, but have had a bit of work from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), writing a species profile for Fenneropenaeus indicus and Penaeus monodon.


One thing I did not mention in my report was that I used a financial modeling spreadsheet from Texas A&M University developed by Wade Griffin and Granvil Treece.  Called A Guide to the Financial Analysis of Shrimp Farming, it’s the most user-friendly aquaculture financial model I have come across, and I have used quite a few.



Topics Covered in the Report


Empoyment Water Quality Hatchery Diseases
Production Systems Hatchery Maturation and Spawning
Nursery Growout Larval Rearing
Feeds and Feeding Pond Management Harvesting/Processing
Diseases and Pests Nutrition and Feed Financial Analysis
Government Involvement Academic Involvement Operating Costs



Excerpts from the Report


Summary: Amatikulu Prawns (Pty.), Ltd., operated as a commercial shrimp farm from 1989 to 2004 when market forces made producing shrimp unviable and the farm closed.  The farm had two sites north of Durban, South Africa: a 10-hectare farm in Amatikula and a 24-hectare farm in Mtunzini, along with two hatcheries, a HACCP-certified processing plant and a feed mill.  In the beginning, it grew Penaeus monodon, but switched to P. indicus when the quality and availability of the local monodon deteriorated.  The design, pond layout and low average salinities at the Mtunzini site made its management more difficult than the Amatikulu site.  Together, the farms were viable until 2004.



Amatikulu Farm
Mtunzini Farm


Production History: A temperate climate with cold winters meant that only one crop per year could be produced.  Pond water temperatures dropped to below 20°C in early May and slowly rose through August and September to above 23°C.  Only one crop per year was possible.  This was the main factor leading to our inability to compete and remain viable when market prices fell.


Aeration: We used paddlewheels during growout.  Two horsepower paddlewheels deliver about 3.79 kg O2 per hour.  We used four to five 2-HP (1.5 kW) paddlewheels per hectare or roughly one 2-HP paddlewheel per ton of shrimp.  This was eventually translated into one HP of paddlewheel aeration per 10 kg of feed (7,000 kg final yield with 2% feed per day = 140 kg per day = 14 HP aeration = 7 paddlewheels).  Up to 50 kg per ha of feed can be fed without aeration.  Aeration using paddlewheels should be started before the oxygen level drops below 4 ppm as this is the minimum optimum dissolved oxygen (DO) level to break up temperature stratification and to prevent super-saturation.  The lethal DO for shrimp is close to 1 ppm.


Market Prices: In 2004, the market was flooded with cheap head-on tiger shrimp from India, our neighbor across the Indian Ocean.  This coincided with the dumping regulations that the USA imposed against a number of countries, including India.  This was the final nail in the coffin for our local market.  Some product that India could no longer send to the USA landed in South Africa at between $4 and $5 per kg for 20/30 count per kg head-on tiger shrimp.  In India, shrimp prices crashed from $9.68 to $12.90 to $4.73 per kg, while the cost of production was $5.38.  The generally low international prices and strong Rand also made our export market less viable.


Owner of the Farm: The director and owner of the farm, Mr. Stephanus Myburgh, was killed in a motor accident in 2002.  His son put the farm up for sale at $1.55 million, which included 140 metric tons of shrimp in the ponds and debts of $200 thousand.  We had been trying from before 2002 to secure extra funding, so by the harvest of 2004, we saw that without extra funding, an expansion and improved operational efficiencies, we would go bankrupt if we entered the 2005 season.  Neither Mr. Myburgh nor I was prepared to risk bankruptcy because to intentionally incur debts knowing that bankruptcy was likely is a criminal offence in South Africa.


Shrimp News: To get a free PDF of Evans’ report, click on the link in the Source below, but be prepared for a slow download because it’s a five megabyte file.  I’ve downloaded the file via broadband cable a few times and it has taken between 20 seconds and a minute.  When the file opens, click on the link that reads “A PDF version of this case study is available”.  You will find that link between the Title and Summary.  In the window that opens, you will be able to save the PDF to your computer and view it in full color.  If you want to take a look at the color pictures first, they’re at the end of the PDF file.


Information: Laurence Evans (ecotao@yahoo.com).  Ecotao Enterprises, P.O. Box 1524, Stanger 4450, South Africa.  Evans has two web pages: one for consulting and one for an aquaculture supply company he is developing.


Sources: 1. Case Study: The Rise and Demise of the Commercial Shrimp Farm, Amatikulu Prawns (Pty) Ltd., 1989 to 2004 (Kwazulu Natal, South Africa).  EC FP7 Project.  SARNISSA.  Laurence Evans.  May 2009.  2. Emails to Shrimp News International from Laurence Evans in October 2009.  3. Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, October 27, 2009.


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