Vol. 5 Num 840 Fri. October 06, 2006  

Shrimp hatcheries at stake
Tech know-how transfer to locals seen urgent

Ignorance in natural conservation and use of additional antibiotic by technicians, most of whom are foreigners, in hatching shrimp fry have made the country's Tk 500 crore hatchery industry unstable, industry insiders observed.

They blamed non-transfer of technical know-how to locals and a rat race of producing more fries among entrepreneurs for turning the situation worse.

Sources said the shrimp hatchery industry is entirely run by foreign technicians, mainly from India, Thailand and the Philippines, which poses a serious threat to the sector's stability.

There are allegations that the foreign technicians are used to apply more mother shrimps from the Bay of Bengal than the usual in hatchery instead of applying the natural resource recovery system. Around 70 foreign technicians are now working in all the 57 shrimp hatchery units.

Taking this reality into consideration, a section of entrepreneurs recently initiated a move to run the industries by local technicians, which proved unrealistic as only 10 local technicians could successfully do the job.

Following the move by the entrepreneurs, the Ministry of Home Affairs recently decided to cancel the work permits of the foreign technicians, but later the ministry surrendered to the situation withdrawing the decision.

"As the entrepreneurs were not aware of how to transfer the technical know-how to the locals, they failed to dictate the foreign technicians to conserve the mother fishes and this failure has led to the risk of ultimate extinction of the mother shrimp resources at the Bay," Nizam M Selim, chairman of the Bangladesh Shrimp Development Alliance (BSDA), told The Daily Star.

Terming the race among the entrepreneurs an uneven one, he lamented that this sort of race has made the industry financially unviable, which is burdened with over production.

All hatcheries now produce around 1500 crore shrimp fries against the annual demand for 400 crore fries, farming around 1 lakh 50 thousand hectares of land across the country.

Meanwhile, an inter-ministerial meeting held on September 24,with Fishery and Livestock Minister Abdullah Al Noman in the chair, reached a decision to make mandatory the transfer of the technical know-how from the foreign technicians to the locals.

The meeting also decided to establish a training centre on public-private partnership basis within the next three years for the hatchery technicians.

State Minister for Home Affairs Luthfozzaman Babar also attended the meeting.