Covid-19 registers minimal impact on shrimp sector in Indonesia

Although the pandemic has upset the price of shrimp, disruption to production, supply and farming has been minimal. Shrimp farmers have seen no let-up in demand from processors writes ARIEF FACHRUDIN.

Chin Nyun Suhendra

The impact of Covid-19 on the price of vannamei in Indonesia is real. Abundant global supply prompted the price in January to slip. The China factor also influenced the price, Chin Nyun Suhendra, Director of Sumber Alam Segara said.

China which last year imported around 700,000 tons of shrimp, reduced their imports in the first quarter of this year due to Covid-19. This reduction directly hit India and Ecuador, two main shrimp exporters to the world’s biggest economy.

This prompted these exporters to scour for new markets albeit, at discounted prices. This move impacted Indonesia because the two exporters’ shrimp flowed to the US and EU, the traditional shrimp markets of Indonesia.

“In April however, the price began an uptrend. Shrimp for size 50 was priced at USD 4.10-4.23/kg, but still lower than last year’s average price of USD 5.12-5.46. Farmers still made money since the average production cost is USD 3.41,” Mr Suhendra told Asian Agribiz.

He said the price increase in April was because of low shrimp supply. Many shrimp farmers in the country previously did panic selling when the number of Covid-19 cases started rising.

Fresh prawn have high protein and delicious taste for every seafood menu. Homemade food concept.

Keep running

Amid the pandemic, processors are still buying shrimp from farmers as they already have contracts with buyers from the US, EU and Japan.

“It’s true that demand from the three key export markets has dropped, especially in their horeca sectors, but their retail sectors still need shrimp, especially processed and further processed shrimp,” said Mr Suhendra.

The central government also has been supportive during this crisis. Processors got the green light from the Ministry of Industry to continue operating their plants. The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Affairs, meanwhile, has ensured deliveries of shrimp fries and feed from hatcheries and feedmills to farms are not disrupted.

“So far, there is minimal disruption on production inputs. Only shipment delay, which is acceptable because there are Covid-19 protocols that must be followed by the transporters. Farmers have been restocking their ponds,” said Mr Suhendra.

“My farm in Bangka Island has not experienced shipment delays for fries from Lampung. But for feed, the delay is only one day. This is not a problem at all.”

The pressure is from the price hike of feed. In mid-April feedmillers raised prices by 3-4% to USD 1.05-1.06/kg due to the rupiah depreciation which in turn raised the cost of imported feed raw materials.

The price of shrimp fries, meanwhile, is stable at USD 0.0034-0.0038/piece.

Despite Covid-19, farmers keep restocking their ponds.

Non-technical obstacles

Obstacles faced by shrimp farmers during the pandemic are non-technical. One of them is movement restriction.

Mr Suhendra said many shrimp farmers hire farm technicians and feeding operators from other regions as not all locals want to stay on farms or have experience in shrimp farming.

At some farms, workers returned to their hometowns after harvest which was before Covid-19, and they could not return because of movement restrictions. Those who returned had to be quarantined for 14 days and this delayed restocking.

Another obstacle is local lockdowns which has affected shrimp harvesting.

Mr Suhendra said each shrimp processor has their own harvesting team. Some teams assigned to harvest were stopped by local, afraid that the harvesters were Covid-19  positive. As such, shrimp harvesting at the farms was postponed.

“In this case, it’s important to maintain good communication with local people and officials around the farms. We have to ensure that harvesters are safe and free of Covid-19,” he said.

Processors have been buying shrimp as they have to fulfill contracts with international buyers.
About Sumber Alam Segara

Sumber’s shrimp farm is located in north Bangka. Each year the company produces around 400 tons of fresh shrimp to processors in Jakarta.

“Our shrimp is harvested at 20 and 30 pieces per kg. Sometimes we harvest at 40, 50 and 60 pieces per kg because of technical problems and weather,” said Mr Suhendra.

Looking ahead, he wants to expand his farm since he still has land for it.

“Post Covid-19 we will expand,” he said. “Shrimp farming is profitable.”