Shrimp farmers in Ca Mau Province in the very south of the country, where most of the big farms are situated, have suffered the biggest losses, said Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong of Mard at a recent conference in Hanoi.
Followed by shrimpers in the provinces of Kien Giang, Bac Lieu and Soc Trang in descending order of magnitude of the damages.
Losses in Ca Mau Province alone, he said, have been estimated at a staggering US$11.6 million (VND 260 billion), principally caused by the high salinity brought about by the prolonged drought.
Nguyen Tien Hai, chair of the Ca Mau People’s Committee, in turn reported that he had instructed departments and agencies in the province to focus all their effort on measures to combat the drought and saltwater intrusion.
To date, the province had spent about US$803,000 reconfiguring the irrigation networks to stave off saltwater intrusion, which has been paid for out of funds from a EU project to upgrade shrimp rearing methods in the Mekong Delta.
He said the Project, which has a total budget of US$2.8 million, aims to promote sustainable aquaculture and poverty reduction in the three Mekong Delta provinces of Soc Trang, Bac Lieu and Ca Mau.
It was established by the International Collaborating Centre for Aquaculture and Fisheries Sustainability and Oxfam for the benefit of smallholder processors, shrimp producers and local residents.
Alejandro Montalban, Minister Counsellor of the Delegation of the EU to Vietnam, pointed out that one of the most pressing problems facing shrimpers in the area hardest hit by the drought is access to credit and working capital loans.
The shrimp farmers, he noted, severely need access to short-term financing to have money to tide them over until next harvest and restock as this year’s drought has wiped them out.
Nguyen Le Hoa, deputy country director of Oxfam in Vietnam, estimated that the drought had destroyed the livelihoods of about one million shrimp farmers in Can Tho and three million nationwide.
Ngo Cong Luan, director of an Agriculture and Fisheries Cooperative in Soc Trang Province, ironically noted his members had also suffered increased losses following their implementation of Vietnamese Good Agriculture Practices (VietGAP).
It costs more to produce shrimp in compliance with VietGAP, but due to corruption in the supply chain buyers are unwilling to pay more for quality shrimp. Dishonest buyers are already pawning off low quality shrimp as high quality.
Consequently, said Mr Luan, they don’t care – as they are already cheating their customers – and paying more for high quality shrimp would only cost them more money and reduce their profits.
As a result of the devastation and losses brought about by the drought, Mard has lowered its forecast for gross export revenue for farm raised shrimp exports by US$300 million to US$3 billion for 2016.