Bangladesh Shrimp Industry Faces Increased Challenges
Earlier this week, Dr. Saidul Islam of the Department of Sociology at the University of York in Toronto wrote a review on the Bangladeshi shrimp industry and the challenges it faces. The second largest foreign currency earner, bringing in $515 million last fiscal year, the shrimp industry is important for the Bangladesh economy. Producing 5 percent of the world's shrimp output, the Bangladesh government targets an increased income of more than $1.5 billion in 2010. Dr. Islam commented that Bangladesh should be able to reach $2 billion.
Dr. Islam, a Bangladesh native, is part of the York Center for Asian Research, conducting research titled "Privatizing Environmental Government: A Global Analysis of the Effects and Effectiveness of Environmental Certification for Farmed Salmon and Shrimp."
The Bangladesh shrimp industry is not without challenges. In fact, the past few years have been increasingly uncertain. Countries like Canada, Japan, the United States and the European Union have been increasingly concerned about environmental impacts and working conditions in which shrimp is produced, demanding higher ethical standards.
Earlier this year, the Bangladesh shrimp industry was put in the spotlight when the Solidarity Center, a U.S.-based NGO, published "The True Cost of Shrimp," which alleged indecent labor conditions at shrimp farms in Thailand and Bangladesh. Bangladesh fisheries officials recently visited the United States to convince U.S. officials that the report was based on an inspection from two years ago, since which time the country's shrimp industry has improved significantly. U.S. representatives were invited to inspect Bangladesh's processing plants; the United States did not put any restriction on shrimp imports from Bangladesh.
To secure a foothold in the EU market, a consumer of nearly half of the country's shrimp, Dr. Islam suggested the government assign a team of experts to keep track of regulation changes and quality standards and requirements.
Dr. Islam recommended that Bangladesh invest in research and development centers to provide high quality, low cost breeds that are resistant to common diseases.
Despite the fact that 6,000 shrimp farms in the southwest coast were wiped out by the recent Cyclone Sidr, the first 10 months of the current fiscal year ending in June yielded $449 million in shrimp exports.
The Bangladesh shrimp industry employs 750,000 people at 140,000 farmers, producing 50,000 metric tons annually in the southeast and southwest coasts.