Thu, 11 Mar 1999

Indonesia shrimp exports drop 11 percent in 1998

JAKARTA (JP): Foreign exchange earnings from shrimp exports increased by 11 percent to US$1.5 billion last year from $1.35 billion in 1997, an executive said here on Wednesday.

Chairman of the Association of Indonesian Shrimp Feedmeal Producers Johannes Kitono said that in terms of volume Indonesian shrimp exports increased by 3.8 percent to 108,000 metric tons in 1998 from 103,950 tons in 1997.

"But the growth in exports in the last year was much lower than the 16.24 percent increase recorded in 1997," he said at a seminar on shrimp cultivation.

This lower growth, he said, was partly due to the rampant looting of shrimp ponds which had resulted in lower production last year.

Johannes said Indonesian shrimp exporters should diversify their markets if they wanted to increase their world market share.

He said that local shrimp exporters were too proud of being the biggest exporter of shrimps and prawns to Japan, making them reluctant to look into other potential markets.

"The United States market has great potential. Many Americans have shifted their diet from red meat to white meat. They now see shrimps and prawns as their main sea food," he said.

He said Indonesia's shrimp exports to the U.S increased by 19 percent to 15,285 metric tons last year from 12,824 tons in 1997.

But Johannes said that weak trade diplomacy has put Indonesia far behind Thailand in benefiting from U.S. market potential.

Thailand has been the biggest shrimp exporter to the U.S in the past three years while Indonesia ranks fifth. Last year, Thailand exported 92,265 tons of shrimps and prawns there.

He said Thailand has successfully convinced the U.S government that the shrimps exported were from cultivated ponds and not from marine catches. The U.S government has embargoed shrimps and prawns caught from the sea since 1996 because this would threaten the life of several protected marine animals like sea turtles.

He also said that Thailand's shrimp and prawn products had met U.S standards, while many of Indonesia's shrimp exports were still being rejected because they did not meet those standards.

Johannes also said that the government has to work very hard to meet the target of 1 million tons of shrimps and to export 600,000 metric tons by 2003.

"The plan would need an investment of about Rp 39.45 trillion in order to expand shrimp ponds and to improve quality. However, this is very hard given the small budget allocated by the government to the fisheries sector," he said. (gis)