Shrimp farm to open in remote, restive Xinjiang area of China

Published on
January 21, 2020

The Xinjiang Benteng Biotechnology Co. aquaculture firm, in the far-westerly and politically troubled Xinjiang region, will see cultivation of shrimp (P. monodon) in the lower reaches of the Pamir Mountains near the Silk Road city of Kashgar.

The company has teamed with researchers from Shanghai Ocean University – an increasingly important source of China’s aquaculture and marine research – to cultivate the shrimp in the Tarim basin in an area known as Maralbexi (Ba chun in Mandarin) county. The location is near Kashgar, which is in the southerly capital of the region and closer to Pakistan and the Kyrgyz town of Osh than to most major Chinese cities.

The shrimp-farming pilot is being supported by local government as a poverty-alleviation program. Due to the area’s remote location – bordered to the north by the Tian Shan mountain range and to the south by the Kunlun Mountains on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau – the area has had less exposure to the economic gains realized by much of the rest of the country in recent years.

Starting up an aquaculture operation in the area could prove a challenge. The Taklamakan Desert dominates much of the vast space, which is renowned for the alkaline nature of the earth and for the existence of underground saline water bodies.

“If this works, it will prove that we can cultivate [shrimp] in even the deepest interior [of China],” Xinjiang Benteng Biotechnology Co. Chairman Chan Ya Yun said a statement to local media. Chan predicted the farm could be producing commercial quantities of shrimp by the end of the year.

Xinjiang has recently become a hotspot aquaculture developments in recent years, with an emphasis on crab breeding. Further north in the more verdant steppes on the Kazakh border, the Yili Crab Seeds Breeding Centre is producing seedlings for a burgeoning freshwater crab sector that previously relied on seedlings imported from far-away Jiangsu Province on the east coast.

“There was a big problem getting seedlings to acclimatize, so now we produce them locally,” a sales executive who answered the phone at the company told SeafoodSource. The salesperson said the company is now selling in both the provincial capital Urumqi as well as in inland Chinese city of Xi’an.

Xinjiang’s regional capital, Urumqi, is marketed as a trading hub for Central Asia in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) blueprint for global trade and the Xinjiang region will be linked to the Arabian Sea via the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, one of the BRI’s constituent parts.   

The area has also been the center of ethnic unrest and a Chinese government campaign to stamp out what they’ve termed Islamic-inspired separatism amongst the native Uyghur ethinc group using mass internment camps.

Photo courtesy of Hrui/Shutterstock

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