Thailand’s shrimp export set to decline by half

shrimp tubAfter losing its status as the world’s largest rice exporter, Thailand’s external trade is now shaken by an additional problem: The industry has been hit by a disease called Early Mortality Syndrome which is killing the shrimp.

The disease has hit countries all over Asia where more than one million people depend on shrimp for daily living. Thailand ships an average of 350,000 metric tonnes of shrimp per year abroad and is the world’s largest exporter of the seafood. 150,000 tonnes of shrimp are consumed in the country.

Somsak Paneetatayasai, president of the Thai Shrimp Association, said that shrimp production may decline by as much as 50 per cent.

Thai companies are now mulling to import shrimp from Ecuador, India and Vietnam to help meet local demand. Thai Union Frozen Products, the country’s largest shrimp producer, expects earnings to decline in 2013 because of the disease.

It is expected that the industry could recover later in 2013 after hatcheries, farmers and the government stopped the disease spreading.

The shrimp-killing disease has been linked to a a strain of a bacterium, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, commonly found in brackish coastal waters which affects two species of shrimp commonly raised around the world, the Giant Tiger Prawn and the Whiteleg Shrimp. The strains are not harmful to humans.

The cause for the spread of the bacteria is seen in warmer and saltier ocean waters due to global warming.