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Fatal Shrimp Disease Slows Thai Farm Growth

05 December 2013

THAILAND - Thailand's agricultural economy is expected to expand only slightly this year due to dry weather and a fatal shrimp disease.

Bangkok Post reports that the Office of Agricultural Economics (OAE) slashed the farm economic forecast for 2013 to 1.1 per cent from a previous projection of 3.5 per cent to 4.5 per cent.

But the agency is more upbeat about next year, expecting growth in a range of 3-4 per cent, due to the improving shrimp sector.

Agriculture Minister Yukol Limlaemthong identified early mortality syndrome (EMS) as the main factor of a 7.2 per cent contraction in the fisheries segment.

Detected in China three years ago, EMS hit shrimp farms in Viet Nam and Malaysia a year later before finding its way into Thailand in last year's fourth quarter.

The disease halved shrimp production in Thailand to 300,000 tonnes and affected shrimp exports proportionately.

The crop sector, which covers field production such as rice, cassava, rubber, palm oil and fruit, is expected to rise by 3 per cent, down from earlier estimate of 4-5 per cent.

Severe drought that hit most plantations in the North and Northeast were also blamed for the slowdown.

Mr Yukol said the shift to using more farm machines to replace human labour has caused the farm service economy to slow down, with an expansion of 1.1 per cent year-on-year.

OAE secretary-general Anan Lila is confident improvements in all farm sectors such as crops, livestock and fisheries will drive the farm economy to meet the 3-4 per cent growth target next year. A favourable outlook for rice, maize, sugar cane and rubber will push crop growth next year to a range of 3.2 per cent to 4.2 per cent over last year.

Cooperation between the Fisheries Department and shrimpers in setting guidelines against EMS will notably return Thai shrimp farming to normal next year, said Mr Anan.

The measures _ regular pond clean-ups to raise hatcheries and careful imports of broodstock from abroad _ could help the fisheries sector to enjoy growth of 2.2 per cent to 3.2 per cent next year.

Meanwhile, the Thai Rice Exporters Association (TREA)said exports of the grain in the first 10 months of this year slipped 3.5 per cent by volume and 6.9 per cent in value year-on-year to 5.4 million tonnes and 110 billion baht, respectively.

But the TREA forecast high November exports of 550,000 to 650,000 tonnes thanks to more orders for premium-grade rice for consumption during the festive season.

In October, shipments improved strongly thanks to low prices for Thai grains, notably white and glutinous rice. High demand from the Middle East and South Africa raised the shipments of white rice by 35 per cent to 317,565 tonnes and glutinous rice by 84 per cent to 248,724 tonnes.

Benin, Iraq and South Africa were largest Thai rice importers during the first 10 months, at 790,448 tonnes, 703,746 and 330,408 tonnes, respectively.

Huge state rice stocks, the ongoing harvest season and a new rule that limits pledging amount pushed down export prices.

The latest report showed the price gap between Thai and Vietnamese grains will narrow to a range of $25-30 this week.

Viet Nam's 5 per cent grade white rice is sold at US$ 415-425 a tonne compared with $442 for Thai rice.

Further Reading

Find out more information on Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS) by clicking here.

TheFishSite News Desk

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