Bangladeshi shrimp sector sets agenda of moving black tiger shrimp into premium category

Published on
March 5, 2019

After years of losing market share to competitors in other countries who farm vannamei shrimp (Penaeus vannamei), Bangladeshi shrimp farmers, who primarily farm black tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon), are looking for a pathway back to relevance in the international shrimp market.

From 26 to 28 February, representatives of Bangladesh’s shrimp industry and its government met with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), the Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal (STIP), and the Solidaridad Network at the Bangladeshi Shrimp Market Consultation and Trade Promotion event in the Netherlands.

At the meeting, participants discussed the country’s national action plan for sustainable growth of the black tiger shrimp sector in Bangladesh and strategized around ways to build the brand of Bangladeshi shrimp, according to STIP, which facilitated the consultation. Those at the meeting agreed that the primary problem hurting sales of black tiger shrimp from Bangladesh doesn’t have to do with the species, but rather the quality of the product reaching the market.

"Everybody here is in the same industry. We are a team and must think of the whole supply chain as belonging to all of us. We all have a shared responsibility to take action and shorten the supply chain to maintain the farm fresh quality," one participant said, according to STIP.

Approximately 20 Bangladeshi shrimp exporters joined about 30 European importers, including representatives from the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. Executives from European wholesalers, retailers, and other industry professionals were also present for the meeting, as was representatives from DG Sante, the European Commission’s department overseeing health and food safety, whose responsibilities include the monitoring of shrimp imports.

A major outcome of the meeting was the creation of a consortium of Bangladeshi black tiger buyers and suppliers who plan on working together to develop a code of conduct to which all members will adhere. The primary goal of the consortium is to create a mechanism whereby the industry can police itself, with the aim of bettering the quality of shrimp from Bangladesh. 

“The desire is to create a brand, which would promote Bangladeshi black tiger shrimp as a premium product in the [European] market,” STIP Director Willem van der Pijl said. “Bangladeshi black tiger shrimp is a beautiful product when it comes off of the farms but after having gone through several intermediaries, becomes a much lower-quality product by the time it reaches the processors. Pressure from all sides to maximize profit means that often both importers and exporters cut corners when bringing the product to the market, in order to stay ahead- devaluing the black tiger shrimp in the process.”

With the aim of achieving a premium niche for Bangladeshi black tiger shrimp in the European market, specific agenda items agreed to by the consortium include the adoption of a “robust cluster-farming model to improve efficiency in backwards and forward market linkages for access to quality of inputs, services, logistics, and market structures; increasing production with improved extensive farming; achieving E.U. market standards, including certification and brand reputation, to reach the high-end market; concentrating on [the production of] larger-sized shrimp; accurate labeling of products; and government and sector organization intervention in cases of fraud,” according to van der Pijl. 

Van der Pijl said many of those in attendance at the meeting adopted the unofficial slogan, "More shrimp, less ice, no cheating on the size,” as a mantra to work towards improvement in the sector.

Also discussed at the meeting was a November 2018 visit by the European Union Food and Veterinary Office to Bangladesh to review the progress of the country’s residue monitoring plan. The audit, which inspected all stages of the country’s shrimp production process, produced “very positive” results and “reflected the work done by the Bangladeshi government and industry over many years,” according to Sylvie Coulon, a representative of DG Sante. The results remove a potential obstacle in the path of growing Bangladesh’s seafood imports to the E.U.

Most of those attending the event were optimistic about the future of Bangladesh’s shrimp sector, van der Pjil said. 

“This was the first time that such a broad representation of shrimp industry stakeholders came together to have a candid discussion. That a group of people who are not accustomed to talking openly with one another spent a whole day doing so, exchanging constructive criticism, and fostering cooperation,” he said. “We consider the level of openness shown on Tuesday a real breakthrough for the shrimp industry.”

Further talks are scheduled around Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, Belgium, taking place 7 to 9 May. In the meantime, several working groups from the new consortium will be meeting to discuss specific issues raised during the February meeting.

"The challenge now is to follow through. This day should be the beginning and not an end,” one participant said after the adjournment of the meeting.

Van der Pijl said he is hopeful the event will lead toward improvement in how Bangladesh produces its shrimp, and how the European market perceives the country’s seriousness about tackling its issues. 

“We consider the level of openness shown on Tuesday a real breakthrough for the shrimp industry,” he said. “We expect to see a bright future for the Bangladeshi shrimp industry and closer ties with their colleagues in the E.U. market, moving forward.”

Photo courtesy of Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal 

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