26 May 2020

By Roderick Abad

Originally Posted in Business Mirror

Good practices have enabled local shrimp growers to decrease costs by 38.5 percent, thus helping them achieve the maximum revenue potential of exporting such aquatic resource.

Confronted by various diseases and increased mortality of their produce, farmers have utilized a package of technology, including a water treatment probiotic of Bayer Philippines Inc., that has cut the value of shrimps they grow from P180 for 1 kilogram to P130 per kg while efficiently feeding them.

The said water treatment increases aeration and water exchange in ponds, cleans the water, and maximizes the feeding capacity of shrimps. Feeds, together with power consumption, top the production cost indicators in aquaculture growing.

Feed conversion ratio  determines the cost of food for shrimps. It’s computed by dividing total feeds consumed by total harvest biomass. The lower the FCR, the more efficient the production is, leading to cost savings and higher returns.

Using Bayer’s products, shrimp farmers saw a decline in the FCR from 1.3 to 1.1. The price of feeds dropped from P78/kg to P66/kg. Power cost went down from P40/kg to P20/kg.

As a result, they brought additional savings, for instance, around P220,000 to a medium-scale farmer with 5,000 square meters for shrimp production, that went straight to the bottom line (net profit). Also, they covered a surge in health product cost from P5/kg to – 3/5 – P10/kg, according to Bayer Philippines Public Affairs and Sustainability Head Rex Bryan B. Rivera.

Among the cost-effective practices employed by shrimp growers is the use of a microbial solution called the PondPlus, which balances well the presence of phytoplankton and beneficial microbes in the waters of the pond. It keeps natural health conditions of water required to optimize yield.

Bayer aquaculture experts agree that PondPlus, when used along with good farm management practices, “ensures good algal balance and pond color.” They said that this, eventually, will lead to “reduced stress and improved shrimp yields.”

In April 2018, farm trials of PondPlus was conducted in Bohol. It was tested together with PondDtox, a unique bacteria, Paracoccus pantotrophus.

PondDtox allows anaerobic conversion of toxic hydrogen sulphide into sulphate in pond sediments. Hydrogen sulphide comes from decomposed organic material, including leftover feed, dead vegetation, microalgae, and cyanobacteria. Its presence in pond water results in reduced growth and mortality in shrimp up to 100 percent. Consequently, it diminishes feed conversion efficiency.

PondPlus and PondDtox address water pollution problems. The result of their farm tests, per aquaculture specialists of Bayer, “is an improvement in the oxygenation and nutrition level of shrimp and other crops.” They are proven effective in lessening mortality rate from diseases owing to toxic pond water.

On top of their field trials, fora on test results have been conducted to educate farmers in Bacolod, Cebu, General Santos City, Batangas, Butuan City and Zambales. Academicians, chemists, public and private researchers, as well as business partner suppliers have been also involved in these activities.

“Majority of Filipino shrimp farmers still adopt old, traditional practices and generally perceive health products as unnecessary add-on costs. Despite large-scale operations by some, farmers don’t realize that they can be more efficient and profitable,” Rivera said.  “The value of using these health solutions far outweigh the investment.”

Bayer has, likewise, trained shrimp growers on using Virkon Aquatic, a disinfectant used in sanitizing water (continuous water sterilization) and disinfecting equipment. Also introduced are Deocare Aqua, which likely solves concerns on death rate due to illnesses and toxic gases; and Stomi, which addresses low minerals to help harden the shells of shrimps and increase their immunity.

All these initiatives form part of the “Be in Control” program introduced by the company. Chris Mitchum Ganancial, animal health aquaculture portfolio and key account manager of Bayer Philippines, said that it aims to assist farmers resolve issues on survival rate and high prices of feeds arising from toxic pond water.

The company has prioritized helping solve local growers’ problems on aquaculture, shrimp in particular, with its huge export value reaching to $600 million annually. Such locally grown marine product is being supplied to Japan, the US, Korea and Europe.

Based on Industry.ph report, the Philippines registered a $558-million shrimp export as of 2013. Exported are frozen, head-on or headless, and un-shelled or shelled shrimps. Volume-wise, the International Trade Centre bared that the Philippines’s shrimp export rose from 8,278 metric tons in 2013 to 10,124 MT in 2017.

Exports to the US increased from 2,793 MT to 3,273 MT over the same periods in review in the form of various shrimp species. It supplied up to 300 MT of shrimp to Europe, mostly in France, during such times.

“With the recently awarded GSP+ [Generalized System of Preference, a tariff reduction program] status, exports to the European Union are likely to increase even further,” reported Seafood-tip.com.

This portal revealed that the Philippines is a pioneer in culturing several prawn and shrimp species. In the 1990s, however, disease had broadly devastated cultured shrimp growing in the country with the use of the species Penaus monodon (black tiger shrimp).

Despite this, plus the fact that many farmers overseas have successfully shifted to the use of Litopenaus vannamei (whiteleg shrimp), it remains to be one of the most cultured seafood species domestically.

Approximately, there are 1,500 aquaculture operators nationwide, including small and medium enterprises and large companies, per Seafood-tip.com. Filipino shrimp manufacturers are located in Manila, Bohol, Butuan and General Santos City. Other processed export shrimp are pasteurized bottled sautéed shrimp, fresh frozen black tiger or white shrimp, shrimp powder, and frozen block shrimp.

“By controlling the supply chain, these [large, export-oriented] companies are able ensure traceability and quality standards needed to export to demanding markets like the European Union. This is important because [shrimp ponds close to urban areas may be contaminated] with pathogens,” the portal said.

Under the Board of Investments’ Investments Priority Program, shrimp is a priority sector that enjoys tax holidays and other incentives. Production of this marine resource meant for sale abroad requires food safety certification, Good Manufacturing Practice, to ensure quality of the product.