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January 30, 2014
Organic Shrimp Farming in Ca Mau Province
Tran Quoc Van is excited about his future since his shrimp farm is all set to get organic certification. “If we can get the certification for our shrimp, we don’t need to worry about how to sell and the price could be ten percent higher than usual,” Van said.
It all began in May 2013 when Van and 1,074 other households living in the southernmost province of Ca Mau’s Nhung Mien Protective Forest were invited to take part in a four-year project to get organic shrimp certification by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Netherlands Development Organisation.
The goal of the project is to help local shrimp farming systems become more profitable by combining them with protection of mangrove forests, thus boosting both profitability and sustainability while also increasing coastal resilience to climate change.
Shrimp farming is one of Viet Nam’s leading export-related activities, but it is also the leading cause of mangrove loss in a country with a long, densely populated coastline that is vulnerable to tropical storms and sea-level rise. So the sustainability of the shrimp business and the conservation of mangroves are both national priorities.
The project, funded by the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, focuses on a group of around 2,700 farmers who use an integrated model of farming shrimp in mangrove forests in which each household has to earmark 60 per cent of the land for growing mangrove. They may get significantly lower yields per hectare than intensive shrimp farms, but have a highly diverse output, lower costs, and much lower risk of crop failure. Not only is this model resilient to disease but also stable and profitable, with incomes significantly higher than from traditional farming.
Better still, because the farming is essentially natural, the shrimp can be certified as organic, which allows the farmers to meet growing international demand for organic goods and get a premium price for their products.
“We have 2,683 households living inside the protective forest, but only 1,075 got training in farming organic shrimp and 741 of them (owning 2,647 hectares) were selected to join the project,” Ta Minh Man, deputy head of the Nhung Mien Protected Forest management authority, said. The forest is in Ngoc Hien District in Ca Mau, which is home to half of Viet Nam’s mangrove and shrimp farming areas.
The project has worked to include as many farmers as possible in the process, both through training and helping them ensure a 50 per cent mangrove cover on their farms that will enable them to get organic certification for their shrimp.
The project will help plant mangrove in farms that do not meet the 50 per cent criterion, and has organized farmers into groups that work towards achieving it jointly rather than individually.
Households are trained to get certification in raising shrimp without using industrial foods or chemicals.
To effectively start the project, an agreement was negotiated with the Ca Mau-based Minh Phu Company, the world’s second-largest shrimp exporter in terms of value, for it to buy all the certified organic shrimp that farmers produce at a ten per cent premium.
In the past organic certification for shrimp farms in Viet Nam had issues like low prices, late payments, and a lack of transparency that had farmers questioning the economic value of certification. All of these have all been resolved with the new model.
Minh Phu will also sell high-quality postlarvae to the farmers and pay for the annual audit and internal control systems that ensure the chain of custody from the farm to the processor.
The Ca Mau authorities now want to scale up organic certification to 20,000 hectares of integrated mangrove-shrimp farms by 2020.
The vision is to establish an “organic coast” that both produces high-value certified shrimp and protects against rising sea levels and storms.
Source: Vietnam Net Bridge. Shrimp Project Helps Create ‘Organic Coast’. January 30, 2014.
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