Lobster farmers march onward despite difficulties hinh anh 1Nguyen Thanh Nhon (L) with some of his lobsters. In recent years, the caged lobster industry in Vietnam has been witnessing a decline (Photo: trangtraiviet.vn)
Phu Yen (VNA) - “Lobster debt can only cleared with lobster!,” declared Nguyen Thanh Nhon, the “Lobster King” of Song Cau town in the coastal province of Phu Yen.

He would know: the 51-year-old man has seen his fortune made and destroyed – a lobster fortune crashing to lobster debt before being restored with lobster – several times over by the prized crustacean. A very early adopter of lobster cultivation, Nhon has seen many others come to this region to start their own businesses. Listening to rumors of good earnings, people from all over Vietnam come here for a “lobster dream”.

But this very influx of people precludes them from reaching their dreams.

The local authorities cannot manage farmers, cages or surface areas for lobster cultivation. Therefore, the uncontrollable development has led to the lack of juveniles, environmental destruction and crop failure.

Nhon, meanwhile, persists.

Nhon was born near Tu Nham village in Song Cau town’s Xuan Thinh ward, the original place of Vietnam’s caged lobster farming industry.

“Thirty years ago, no one ever thought of raising a lobster. Some villagers accidentally caught juveniles and raised them in fish cages for fun. Those lobsters developed quickly and brought huge profits. Eventually, several people followed suit. They invested to buy cages and juveniles, and planned to make money,” recalled Nhon.

Married in 1996 and struggling to make ends meet, he and his wife spent all they had to buy 11 juveniles and raised them in their relatives’ cages. Spending a bit of money to buy feed, they earned positive profits from this business.

Nhon and his three siblings then cooperated to buy cages and farm about 800 lobster. After one year and a half, those lobsters yielded 80 million VND (3,500 USD) for each of them.

“Eighty million was a huge amount of money back then, we can even open a restaurant! However, I decided to invest more for bigger earnings. We borrowed from our relatives and took loans to buy nearly 3,400 juveniles for 57 cages. The lobsters developed very well, which promised to bring in billions of đồng in profits. However, in September 2001, the storm No.8 destroyed all our cages in Xuân Đài Bay just in one night. All our money had drifted away. Debts piled up. We cannot even cry,” said Nhon.

The loss, however, did not discourage him.

After four years of slogging away at paying debts, in 2005, Nhon started all over again. With another loan, he bought 17 lobster cages in Xuan Dai Bay. Juveniles were getting rarer and more expensive while several diseases were threatening his stock. Fortunately, in 2006, Nhon finally could sell 17 cages’ worth of lobster production, earning 200 million VND (8,800 USD).

Nhon is a significant farmer who has stayed the longest with lobster aquaculture, according to Le Minh Hoan, Chairman of Xuan Thinh ward People’s Committee.

“He is engaging in finding suitable farming locations and investing in technological innovations to control diseases,” said Hoan.

However, the density of cages has destroyed the bio system and caused inadequate water quality conditions.

“In the recent 10 years, lobster cultivation has witnessed a decline. Nhon is also struggling with polluted farming areas, poor quality juveniles and unstable selling prices. At the present, several ‘lobster millionaires’ are cutting investments to reduce risk,” added Hoan.

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According to Truong Hoang Ngoc, Chairman of Xuan Thinh ward Farmer’s Union, profits from lobsters are decreasing. However, to farmers who stay with this career like Nhon, lobster farming is the only way.

“I want my life, my children’s lives to have a brighter future. In 2007, the price of juveniles fell, then I bought 9,000 of them. In harvesting season, thanks to the rising lobster price, we earned 2.2 billion VND (97,000 USD) in profits,” he said.

The market fluctations and environmental pollution are challenging lobster farmers like Nhon. “However, since we have pursued this job for a life time, it’s better to continue,” he concluded.-VNA