Day 12 7th December Visiting a semi intensive shrimp farm

7.12. Semi-Intensive Shrimp Farming

Betony houses where the permanent workers live
The entrance to the semi intensive farm
Security: Electricity on site lighting the roads between the different ponds
Paddle wheels for the aeration of the water
Workers preparing the pond

Today we visited one of the four semi-intensive shrimp farms that exist in Bangladesh. The owner is one of the richest men in Bangladesh, with 693,5 ha of land on which he has 16 gher engaged in improved-traditional or semi-intensive production, producing about 30-35 tons of shrimp per month. He started shrimp production in 1983 because it was more profitable than culturing rice. His main goal was to increase the production per hectare and, together with it, his income. One of the challenges of intensive shrimp cultivation is that there is a higher risk for disease and also higher input costs. To reduce the risk of diseases, the water is treated specially by disinfection and aeration, but this also acts to remove most of the naturally-occurring feed in the ponds (e.g. algae), which is then insufficient to support such high stocking densities. The farmer must therefore supply artificial (pelletized) feed. Moreover the higher stocking densities and the use of artificial feed make it necessary to aerate the water by electric “paddlewheels”, to maintain healthy oxygen levels. Therefore, the main increase in input costs associated with semi-intensive farming, are associated with feed and electricity. Looking at the wide expanse of ponds here, it reminded me of how some people describe shrimp farms to be “like a desert”: a large area with nearly no grass, trees or rice. The staff working on the farm live here as permanent workers sleep in little betony houses surrounding the ghers, since inside the gher area there is no conventional village. It was interesting for me to think that Europeans buying conventional shrimp from Bangladesh could be, without knowling, eating shrimp from either type of production; from small family based traditional farmers like Mr. Mridha (see previous blog) who needs the money to feed his family, or from a huge semi-intensive farm like this one, where the owner invests some of the profits in a small private zoo for special guests (we visited that too).

Photo © Loni Hensler