Push and Pull in Black Tiger Shrimp Farming: A Malaysian Experience

Ms Catherine Lee May Ying, Senior Manager, Group Corporate Sales & Marketing, Blue Archipelago Bhd, Malaysia

Malaysia started its shrimp industry in the 80s with black tiger shrimp, Penaeus monodon farming. It helped to develop more than 100 big and small shrimp processing plants, making Malaysia a favourite exporter of the black tiger shrimp to Europe. The self-imposed ban by Malaysia’s Ministry of Health in 2008 led to the decline in its farming. While black tiger shrimp farming faced various diseases, particularly the white spot syndrome virus (WSSV), the introduction of specific pathogen free (SPF) white shrimp Penaeus vannamei in 2005, gave shrimp farmers hope.

Malaysia’s production of marine shrimp reached more than 120,000 tonnes in 2011 until the early mortality syndrome (EMS) affected many farms in 2012, triggering a decline in production. Shrimp farmers initially tried fish farming with little success as return on investment was low. The revival of black tiger shrimp farming began with a few farmers in Pantai Remis, encouraged by processing plants’ demand for the black tiger for export. When prices for vannamei shrimp crashed in early 2018, successful black tiger farmers continued to enjoy good returns.

This sudden switch led to high demand for black tiger post larvae. The choice of post larvae is dependent on reported success during grow-out, putting a strain on selected hatcheries to meet demand and financial losses by others, flushing away unsold post larvae. The high demand for post larvae also resulted in the “smuggling” of naupli from across the Thai border, an eventual biosecurity risk for the country.

The domestic market in Malaysia has little demand for black tiger shrimp, simply because it is expensive for everyday consumption. Farms depend on processing plants. Today, the challenge is the limited volume each plant can take per day. Even if few farms harvest at the same time, prices drop. In turn, the processing plant’s demand is affected by international demand and pricing. The current climate is very encouraging for black tiger export. The more farmers switch over to the black tiger shrimp, the more orders the processing plant will accept, as they are assured of the raw materials. Consequently, if demand for black tiger shrimp by processing plants is high, farmers are more willing to stock their ponds.

Farmers in Malaysia have a dilemma. On the one hand, a successful harvest of the black tiger means good profits and returns on investment but securing good quality post larvae is critical to avoid crop failures. Vannamei shrimp is still farmed amid diseases but with the current low ex-farm prices, competition from imported Thai shrimp and very tight profit margins is a pain for farmers. This presentation will show the ‘tight rope’ that shrimp farmers in Malaysia are walking on.