Drought, salinity hit fishery exports hinh anh 1A dried prawn farming field in Lich Hoi Thuong commune,  Tran De district, Soc Trang province (Source: VNA)

HCM City (VNA) – Severe drought and saltwater intrusion in the Mekong Delta has badly affected agriculture and aquaculture, threatening a scarcity of raw materials for seafood exports.

Shrimp farmers in Ben Tre, Tra Vinh, Soc Trang and Kien Giang provinces are nervous as their shrimp keep dying because of drought and saltwater intrusion up rivers.

“Shrimp farming is so risky,” Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Saigon) newspaper quoted Le Minh Hung, a farmer in Binh Dại district, Ben Tre, as saying that “I have spent 70 million VND (3,100 USD) on two hectares of shrimp within a month but now they are all dead.”

Nguyen Van Dai, deputy chairman of My Long Nam Commune in Tra Vinh’s Cau Ngang district, lamented: “Shrimp farming in our commune is facing a very serious challenge. This year, farmers have just farmed 300ha out of a total of 910ha of shrimp, but 25 percent of the shrimp have died of disease.”

Tran Quang Cui, Deputy Director of the Kiên Giang provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said, “Before the bad weather arrived, the department sent workers to measure salinity and it was over 30 percent.

“We couldn’t feed shrimp at that time. We should wait for rain to feed the shrimp.”

Oysters in the delta have also been decimated by the heat, high salinity and pollution.

“Oysters have started dying in our commune, and we have to harvest now to avoid further loss,” Khong Van Lenh of Bao Thuan commune in Ben Tre’s Ba Tri district, said.

The severe weather is worrying seafood exporters since the farming area has been significantly reduced, and they are finding it very hard to source shrimp.

“The bad weather will reduce fisheries production and so exports will fall,” said Ngo Thanh Linh, General Secretary of the Ca Mau Seafood Processing and Exporting Association.

He expected processing plants to run at only 50–60 percent of capacity and the province’s exports to be around only 1 billion USD compared to a target of 1.2 billion USD. The drought and salinity have also hit tra and basa fish farming, which was already in a bad state due to long-term low prices.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, fishery export to date this year have risen 8.2 percent to 1.1 billion USD, but the year’s target of 7.1 billion USD will be hard to achieve.

Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat has instructed related authorities to monitor and support agriculture in mitigating the effects of the severe drought and saline intrusion in the delta.

“Seafood exports play a very important role in the national economy, and therefore this year the project to restructure the seafood industry based on sustainable development will be carried out.”-VNA