Indonesia to revive giant tiger prawn farming

As one of Indonesia’s best-selling and in-demand seafood, shrimp is an important commodity. In order to add on to the existing range of prawns to give consumers more choices, the government is now working to revive the export of the once-favored giant tiger prawns.

To facilitate the continued growth of the shrimp farming industry, the government is taking the lead to introduce innovation and provide all necessary support to enable shrimp farmers to be productive. 

The overseas demand for shrimp continued to rise, even during the height of the Covid pandemic. According to the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (KKP), from January to November 2022, shrimp exports reached US$1,997.49 million, far exceeding the exports of tuna, skipjack, and cob (US$865.73 million), squid and octopus (US$657.71 million), seaweed (US$554.96 million), and crab (US$450.55 million).

A large share of shrimp exported from Indonesia is the whiteleg (Vannamei) shrimp, which offered a higher profit in comparison to other crustaceans, according to Shrimp Club Indonesia’s secretary general Rizky Darmawan.

“The stocking density of the Vannamei shrimp is still far higher, so it offers superior revenue potential,” Darmawan told Maritime Fairtrade. As defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), stocking density is “the quantity of fry or fingerlings per unit of water area”, or to put it simply, how many small shrimps can be put in a pond.

The Vannamei shrimp is also reported to grow faster and is more resistant to diseases. For these reasons, it is not surprising that the species is widely farmed.

The giant tiger prawn (also known locally as udang windu), the once preferred species of crustaceans among Indonesian fish farmers, does not currently enjoyed such steady growth.  This species has low stocking density, is less profitable and more prone to diseases, including the white spot syndrome virus (WSSV).

However, the KKP has increased the number of giant tiger prawn hatcheries in cities across Indonesia, including in Jepara, Central Java. BBPBAP, the brackish water fish farming agency in Jepara, said it has helped the five hatcheries in Central Java and the island of Kalimantan, to improve the output of giant tiger prawn farming.

Nonetheless, Darmawan said such effort might not be enough to start a massive revival.

“Generally, Indonesian prawn farmers have yet to consider shifting to Windu since Vannamei remains more profitable,” he explained.

Darmawan noted that it is difficult and challenging for prawn farmers to turn back to giant tiger prawn farming and raise output to export capacity. While the government’s effort to build more hatcheries can be a starting point, he said follow-ups are necessary if the government is serious about growing the industry.

The head of Jepara’s BBPBAP, Supito, said prawn farmers can benefit from hatcheries because diseases and other issues that may attack the growth of prawn seeds can be detected much earlier.

“One of the advantages of using seeds from hatchery is earlier prediction of survival rate, meaning that potential issues or problems can be noticed within one or two weeks, so risk management can be carried out more efficiently.”

Also, reviving giant tiger prawn farming appeared to be tied to national pride as Indonesians believe the species to be of Indonesian origin.

“We are responsible to restore the glory of tiger prawns, which have been declining over the past few decades, when they are native to Indonesia,” Supito said, adding that improvement in production management is key to revive this industry among prawn farmers, especially the traditional ones, because “higher productivity means more profits for the farmers.”

Photo credit: iStock/ Heri Mardinal

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