Shrimp disease still haunts booming Thai food exports

Shrimp disease still haunts booming Thai food exports

Thai food exports are expected to grow by more than 10% this year despite an anticipated slump in shrimp shipments after an outbreak of early mortality syndrome (EMS).

The government expects food shipments to remain on course to grow to 1.1 trillion baht, said Deputy Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn.

"Food exports generated 1.01 trillion baht in export income last year, representing a vital driver of the Thai economy," Mrs Apiradi said yesterday at Thaifex World of Food Asia 2015.

The exhibition runs through Sunday at Impact Muang Thong Thani and showcases 1,600 companies from 34 countries.

The event is expected to draw 112,000 visitors from Thailand and around the globe, with transactions tipped to reach at least 7.35 billion baht.

"The government has set an ambitious development plan to drive Thailand to become one of the world's five largest food exporters over the next five years," Mrs Apiradi said.

Thawee Piyapatana, president of Pacific Fish Processing Co, said Thailand's overall food shipments would see steady growth, with only shrimp and processed shrimp likely to suffer from lower production caused by EMS.

The disease was first detected on a shrimp farm in China in 2009, then moved through Vietnam before reaching Thailand in mid-2012.

Before EMS, Thailand produced 500,000-600,000 tonnes of shrimp a year.

Thailand's shrimp output totalled just 250,000 tonnes last year. Shrimp exports fell accordingly to 160,000 tonnes, down from 190,000 in 2013.

Somsak Paneetatyasai, president of the Thai Shrimp Association, said recently that production might recover to 300,000 tonnes this year, but only if Thailand could tackle the spectre of EMS.

Mr Somsak also voiced hope that the government would tackle illegal fishing and avoid an EU ban on Thai fishery exports.

In April the EU issued a final warning, a so-called "yellow card", giving Thailand six months to crack down on illegal fishing or face an import ban.

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