Sub-Saharan Shrimp Farm Shines Spotlight On Growing African Aquaculture Subsector

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Nigeria’s top shrimp producer, Atlantic Shrimpers Limited has unveiled a new, 400-acre shrimp farm in Lagos State that it says will be the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, producing shrimp for Nigeria and the export market.

However, French-owned shrimp farms in Madagascar that are about 10 times bigger may already have claimed the title of largest in sub-Saharan Africa.

Owned by Unima, a French company, the farm in Northwest Madagascar is one of  two of the group’s farms spread over almost 4,000 acres of natural clay soil, producing more than 5,000 tons of shrimp per year, according to Feed Navigator.

Unima’s Madagascar farm is also the first in Africa to get internationally recognized certification for labeling that promotes responsible fish farming practices.

Farmed shrimp accounts for 55 percent of the shrimp produced globally, but African shrimp aquaculture doesn’t rank anywhere near the top of the list for regional production.

The biggest shrimp-producers are in developing countries of China, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Brazil, Ecuador and Bangladesh, where shrimp farming produces substantial income, according to WorldWildlife.org.

Shrimp farming is traditionally fractionalized and often done on small farms.

Atlantic Shrimpers, a leader in the segment in sub-Saharan Africa, is making Nigeria happy for several reasons.

Its state-of-the-art shrimp farm will generate much-needed foreign exchange, add value in Nigeria, and diversify the country’s non-oil exports, Naij.com reported.

In Nigeria, Atlantic Shrimpers has been active in shrimp trawling since the 1990s, growing its fleet from 15 to 70-plus trawlers and investing in its own dry dock. It developed a processing factory, in-house lab, workshops and modern cold storage facilities. The company’s frozen shrimp are distributed worldwide under the Prim7Stars brand name to at least 20 countries, including all the European countries and the U.S.

“This farm will substantially increase our export volumes and foreign exchange generation,” said Kamlesh Kabra, managing director of Atlantic Shrimpers.

Farming has made shrimp more accessible to a shrimp-loving public in the U.S., Europe, Japan, World Wildlife reported. Investors seeking profits have intensified farming methods with industrialized processes, sometimes at the expense of the environment.

Unima, a leading shrimp producer and exporter in Madagascar, was recently awarded Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification for one of its farms.

The farm in northwest Madagascar is the first shrimp farm in Africa to receive ASC certification for internationally recognized labeling that promotes responsible fish farming practice.

The ASC standard for farmed shrimp stipulates that farms certified by the ASC don’t destroy mangroves, don’t operate in natural wetlands and don’t operate where endangered species live, Feed Navigator reported. There are strict controls over waste management and farmed fish escaping into the wild.

The standard applies to all locations and sizes of shrimp farms globally, although it is thought the certification is of greater interest to producers trading internationally.

In Nigeria, Atlantic Shrimpers ranked among the top 20 non-oil exporting companies for the past six years, Naij.com reported.

In Madagascar, Unima said it stocks shrimp at a low density of five to 10 shrimp per square meter, instead of 50-plus per square meter in intensive farming, to ensure sustainable production.

In 2014, shrimp fishing and farming represented 49 percent of Madagascar’s fish products exports. Europe is the main consumer of Malagasy shrimp, importing 400,000 tons a year. Most of it goes to France. Spain, Portugal and the U.K. get 10 percent of Madagascar’s shrimp.