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A Brief History of Shrimp Farming


There are no records on the early development of shrimp farming in Thailand.  Based on interviews with local shrimp farmers in the late 1960s, however, shrimp farming got started prior to 1930.  Initially, rice farmers reclaimed low-lying estuarine areas for farming, but those areas could only be used for a few months a year during the rainy season.  During the dry season, tidal water was allowed to flow in and out of the paddies, creating a sanctuary for fish and shrimp that generated extra income for the rice farmers.  The profit from selling the shrimp led the farmers to convert their paddies into shrimp ponds.


Around 1950, farmers around the inner Gulf of Thailand (Samutprakan, Samutsakhon and Samutsongkhram provinces), who harvested salt from evaporation ponds, fell on hard times because the price of salt declined until they were unable to make a profit.  Aware that the early shrimp farmers were making a profit, many salt farmers switched to shrimp farming.  Initially, they used simple methods of excavation and diking.  Better techniques gradually developed by trial and error.  With the experience gained over a number of years and with infinite patience and attention, shrimp began farming began to spread.


In the late 1960s, the shrimp farming industry was scattered around the upper Gulf of Thailand.  According to a survey conducted by the Thai Department of Fisheries, there were 1,003 families engaged in shrimp farming and about 7,488 hectares of shrimp ponds, 98 percent of them in the estuaries of the inner Gulf of Thailand (Samutprakan, Samutsakhon, and Samutsongkhram provinces) and others in Rayong, Chonburi and Chanthaburi provinces in southeast Thailand.  Interest was also developing down the east coast of peninsular Thailand in Songkhla, Suratthani, Nakornsrithammarat and Pattani provinces.  Some large-scale farms got started during this period.


In the late 1960s, the initial investment and maintenance on a four-hectare shrimp farm was $582 a year.  The average yield from a four-hectare shrimp pond was about 1,356 kilograms a year.


The major problems of the early shrimp farmers were financing and exploitation by middlemen.  Banchong Teinsongrusmee, the author of this report, said, “With improved techniques in practical application of biology and assistance in marketing and financial aids, shrimp farming in Thailand could one day become a very profitable venture.”


Sources: 1. A Present Status of Shrimp Farming in Thailand.  Banchong Teinsongrusmee.  Contribution No. 18.  June 1970.  2. Email to Shrimp News International.  Subject: Two Papers on the History of Shrimp Farming.  From: John Forster (email jforster@olypen.com, John, who forwarded the paper in Source #1, got started in aquaculture in the 1960s with prawn and fish culture, mostly salmonids.  For the last twenty years, he has worked as an independent consultant and helped establish Columbia River Fish Farms in 1994.  In the last 10 years, he has become increasingly interested in seaweed aquaculture as the only way in which aquaculture can ever emulate agriculture as a major contributor to our food supply).  September 15, 2015. 3. Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, September 2015.

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