Minh Phu’s next big bet is on organic black tiger shrimp
Ca Mau, Vietnam-based Minh Phu Seafood is planning on significantly expanding its organic black tiger shrimp farming, a bold play for a company which has recently prioritized investment in developing its vannamei production capabilities.
Minh Phu has been Vietnam’s largest shrimp company for several years, achieving exports valued at USD 643.7 million (EUR 525 million) in 2019. In recent years, it has invested heavily in upgrading the technology of its vannamei farms in Loc An and Kien Giang in Vietnam’s south, which are in the process of being expanded to meet an expected growth in demand.
But farming of black tiger shrimp has never been a less important mission at Minh Phu, with organic shrimp forming a core part of the company’s expansion plans, Minh Phu CEO Le Van Quang told SeafoodSource.
Organic products are increasingly favored by customers in many developed markets, according to Quang, who said his company’s push for increased organic production of black tiger shrimp – raised mainly in mangrove-integrated farming systems along Vietnam’s southern coast – is a strategic move to get ahead of shifting trends.
One of the most decisive factors in this expansion scheme will be the quality of shrimp larvae, Quang said. Currently, the survival rate of the shrimp larvae in mangrove-integrated farms is between 1 and 3 percent. But Minh Phu is working to develop its own broodstock shrimp, which Quang said may be able to produce larvae with a survival rate of 50 to 60 percent. Quang listed three keys to the higher survival rates: The baby shrimp must be disease-free, adaptive to the habitat in mangrove forests, and raised to bigger sizes than currently common. Quang said Minh Phu is also in the process of developing specialty all-natural feeds for its organic shrimp. The company’s goal is to boost its production capacity to between one and 2.5 metric tons per hectare annually, an increase from the current average of between 250 and 300 kilograms per hectare per year.
Minh Phu has already produced its fifth generation of broodstock shrimp, and Quang said he expects the company will begin seeding the first larvae from the project in the next three to five years. As part of the plan, Minh Phu is planning on expanding its farming area for organic black tiger shrimp to 25,000 hectares, comprised of a mix of mangrove-integrated, rice, and traditional farms – up from its current acreage of 12,000 hectares. Initially, expansion will take place in Ca Mau Province, where Minh Phu has established a subsidiary, the Minh Phu Mangroves Shrimp Social Enterprise, to manage its organic shrimp operations. Subsequently, similar farms will also be developed in other Mekong Delta provinces, with Bac Lieu and Ben Tre targeted for secondary expansion.
Ca Mau Province currently has around 88,000 hectares of black tiger shrimp farming acreage, largely located in mangrove forests, with production of between 15,000 and 20,000 MT per year, according to Minh Phu Mangroves Shrimp Social Enterprise Director Lam Thai Xuyen.
In recent years, Minh Phu has partnered with the provincial government, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the Netherlands Development Organization to train farmers in the Ngoc Hien District in the sustainable production of organic shrimp in mangrove-integrated farming systems. The project, “Mangroves and Markets: Scaling up Ecosystem-Based Adaptation in the Mekong Delta,” offers payments for forest environmental services of VND 500,000 (USD 21.60, EUR 17.70) per hectare per year to farmers who use organic practices. Moving forward, Minh Phu has agreed to buy their shrimp with an estimated 10 percent premium over non-organic shrimp, on the condition farmers leave at least 50 percent farming areas fallow as mangrove restoration areas.
Xuyen said Minh Phu was granted E.U. Organic certification in 2017 and earned Canada Organic certification in November 2020. The company's black tiger shrimp has been supplied to Blueyou's high-end Selva Shrimp brand since 2015, and Xuyen said the certifications and eco-label endorsements are helping earn the company an advantage in Western marketplaces, particularly over competitors in Bangladesh – the current global hub of black tiger shrimp production.
Competition between Bangladesh and Vietnam to supply Europe’s foodservice sector is fierce, but certified organic black tiger shrimp from Vietnam has virtually no major competitor in the European retail sector, according to Shrimp Insights Founder Willem van der Pijl.
However, Quang said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has depressed sales of organic shrimp in Europe due to its price premium, which is about 10 percent over conventionally farmed shrimp. But Minh Phu’s move to expand its organic black tiger shrimp production is being made not for the current market, but for the future, Quang said.
Photo courtesy of Minh Phu