Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hatcheries loom as a must for crab industry

More crab hatcheries are needed to help lift productivity from the soft-shell crab sector, said U Tin Lwin, the secretary of the Crab Entrepreneurs Association.

He said that unless more hatcheries are opened, future exports of soft-shell crabs – a lucrative commodity – will decline because there will not be enough juvenile crabs feeding into the farms.

“We need to put some serious effort into setting up crab hatcheries,” the spokesperson said.

Companies that specialise in soft-shell crab production include Ahsaung Kaung Industries and Pyae Phyo Tun Co in Myeik, Aung Moe Khaing Co and Crab World Co in Yangon’s Kyauktan area, while there are other small producers in Kungyangon and Bogale in Ayeyarwady Division, and in Rakhine State.

The juvenile crabs, weighing around 100 grams, are transported from Ayeyarwady Division, where they are caught, and grown in carefully watched conditions until they reach a saleable size and are ready to moult their shell. When that happens they are quickly swapped into freshwater tanks, which stops their shells from hardening.

More hatcheries would reduce the reliance on catching crabs from the delta, the spokesperson said.

Trial production of soft-shell crabs began in Myeik around 2000, with succes declared in 2003, while a similar trial took place in Kyauktan, in Thanlyin township, in 2007, with farms established during 2008.

Monthly production from the two Myeik-based farms is about 40 tonnes, while those companies in Kyauktan plan to produce as much as 400 tonnes a month by the end of 2009.

Exports are sent to Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan and demand exceeds supply, the spokesperson said.

Exports of soft-shell crabs in the first quarter of this financial year – up to July 26 – have earned about US$2.26 million, or about 25 percent of total crab export earnings.

Normal trade has accounted for about $900,000 of these earnings, while border trade earnings are about $1.4 million.

However, the spokesperson said one problem that has already been identified is a lack of salt: Crab eggs need a salinity level between 28 and 32pc but the water at existing crab farms is only 14-20pc, meaning they are unfit for hatcheries.

Other soft-shell crab producing nations have suffered a similar difficulty, with low survival rates hampering production, said U Hla Win, the retired director general of the Department of Fisheries. A pilot crab hatchery at Chaungtha Beach was judged a success in May this year but mass production at the site has not started. U Hla Win said Myanmar is blessed in having more breeder crabs than other neighbouring countries.