Organic Certification for Shrimp Begins in Thailand
Mar. 26--The establishment of an organic certification body has moved Thailand a step closer to becoming one of the world's leading production and exporting countries for premium-grade shrimp.
Officially opened yesterday at the Fisheries Department, the Organic Agricultural and Farm Products Certification Office will be the national body to accredit organic farm products for export. It operates under the criteria outlined by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).
Although Thailand is already the world's largest shrimp exporter, with a target to export as many as 340,000 tonnes of shrimp this year, the volume of organic shipments remain far too small to serve growing demand from the developed world, especially European countries, where organic food grows about 10-20 percent a year.
Somying Piumsomboon, director-general of the Fisheries Department, said to increase the volume, the department and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GTZ), or the German Agency for Technical Co-operation, have worked to promote organic prawn farming to meet international standards while preserving the environment.
A pilot farm, Sureerath Farm in Chanthaburi, has proved a success. It has produced organic black tiger prawns for export to Switzerland and Germany that could fetch prices that were about 30 percent higher than for normal shrimp.
The success prompted the department and the GTZ to encourage more farmers to apply organic methods. Now there are five groups that are ready to produce a combined 1,073 tonnes of shrimp per year.
The participants include Eastern Organic Prawn Alliance in Chanthaburi, Kungkrabaen Bay Royal Development Study Center in Chanthaburi, Laemfapha Shrimp Aquaculture Community Enterprise Group in Samut Prakan, Black Tiger Trang Group Farm in Trang, and Dumrong Farm in Songkhla.
The first two groups have already received organic certifications from the department and would be subject to an annual review to maintain the standards.
Prayoon Hongrat, the president of Sureerath Farm and chief of the Eastern Organic Prawn Alliance, said raising premium-grade shrimp would not only catapult Thai shrimp ahead of the competition from rival exporting countries but also follow the global trend where chemical-free products are increasingly popular.
"There are a large number of organic grocery shops in Switzerland and Germany, reflecting strong health consciousness among consumers," Mr Prayoon said.
His Sureerath farm is Thailand's first organic shrimp farm to receive the Naturland certificate, which is widely known and accepted in European countries.
This year, he plans to ship about 60 tonnes of the shrimp to Switzerland and Germany and the volume would increase to 100 tonnes next year.
According to Mr Prayoon, higher production costs and lengthy farming processes are the major obstacles deterring farmers from raising organic shrimp.
The production has to adhere to the principles of organic agriculture, which prioritises health, ecology and good management. The use of hazardous chemical substances including fertilisers and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not allowed while use of organic shrimp feed is essential. The entire production must also be traceable.
He said the requirements resulted in lengthy breeding seasons, up to six or seven months each, compared with three or four months for normal output. However, the much more attractive prices could be a big draw, encouraging nearly 20 farmers to join his group, which aims to harvest about 500 tonnes of organic black tiger shrimp in the next five years.
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