Sri Lanka eyes 10-fold growth in prawn exports by 2022

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s seafood exporters are targeting 200 million US dollars in sales from newly farmed king prawns within three years, an industry official said.

“We are hoping to get 200 million US dollars from vannamei (king prawn) exports by 2022,” said Dilan Fernando, President of Seafood Exporters’ Association of Sri Lanka (SEASL).

Sri Lanka’s estimated shrimp exports for 2019 were 20 million US dollars, a small fraction of the 250 million US dollars (provisional) in total seafood exports.

Most of Sri Lanka’s seafood export revenue is derived from tuna exports to the European Union.

The vannamei high-yield prawn variety, also known as pacific white or whiteleg shrimp, was introduced to Sri Lanka in 2018, whereas other countries had adopted the variety in the 1990s.

Vannamei is in higher demand globally. In the European Union, vannamei imports are around 85 percent, with the rest black tiger.

“We started farming vannamei only in 2018 and we were the only country which was exclusively farming black tiger prawns, whereas other countries shifted to vannamei long time back,” said Fernando.

Sri Lanka in 2019 produced 5,000 metric tonnes of vannamei, of which 2,000 metric tonnes were exported, generating an estimated 5 million US dollars.

“We are targeting 50,000 metric tonnes of vannamei production in three years and after reaching 10,000 metric tons, we will export 100 percent,” said Fernando.

He said SEASL is targeting 50 million US dollars in export revenue from king prawns for 2020, and double annually in 2021 and 2022.

Vannamei costs less to farm and is more disease resistant, compared to the black tiger prawn variety Sri Lanka had farmed in its past.

According to Fernando, the cost to produce 1 kilogramme of vannamei is 600 rupees, whereas black tiger costs 800 rupees.

In an average pond, 3 tonnes of black tiger can be cultivated whereas 12-15 tons in king prawn could be farmed, he said.

“Density per square mile is more in vannamei so it takes less space.”

Black tiger prawns are prone to white spot syndrome virus, which kills a prawn in 24 hours. The variety also has a low tolerance to high salt concentrations.

Sri Lanka’s prawn growers are frequently hit by the white spot disease.

The vannamei farms are predominantly located in a new 56-acre aquaculture project in Mannar, while one or two farms of smaller extent are found in the Puttalam lagoon. (Colombo/Jan03/2020)

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