Farmers are adapting as crab exports eclipse those of tiger prawns
Satkhira is well-known for its tiger prawns, referred to as "white gold". Tiger prawn farming started in the southwestern part of Bangladesh, including Satkhira, in the 1980s.
Although the tiger prawn business started profitably, the market price slowly dwindled. Instead, farmers who have suffered financial losses due to the spread of viruses among their stock, a lack of sufficient farming land, and an increase of lease prices, have adopted crab farming.
In just a few year, crab farming has become extremely popular with the local farmers of Satkhira. Every year, the number of crab farms increases in the district. The government has started to create a crab-based industry because of increased demand by the international market.
The unemployed youth have achieved a great deal of success by making small capital investments in crab farming—after receiving the government’s free training on the subject.
According to an Office of Fisheries official in Satkhira, currently, there are 112 government, and 340 non-government, crab farms in the district. Work to buildmore farms is underway.
In the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014-15, 53.39 acres of land were used to farm crabs, which increased to 157.9 acres in FY2015-16, and stood at 208 acres during FY2016-17.
The number of crab enclosures began at 364 in FY2014-15, with the number reaching 380 in FY2015-16. In 2016-17, the number of enclosures increased to 452. Farmers in: Shyamnagar, Debhata, Kaliganj, Ashashuni, and other areas in Satkhira, are using varied techniques to farm crabs. Additionally,crabs are also naturally fished from the Sundarbans and other neighbouring areas.
The produced crabs are exported to: the US, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, and other countries.
Although crab farming has been ongoing for the last few years, currently, it is in a position to open a new window of opportunity for the country's economy. Despite lower demand for crab inside the country, because of religious reasons, demand has skyrocketed abroad.
The rate at which crab exports is increasing might surpass the export of "white gold" or tiger prawns, according to farmers involved in crab farming.
They say that the all the crabs that are caught from the rivers near the Sundarbans grow up naturally, from larvae. The area, due to its salty water, is favourable throughout the year to farm crabs.
At present, there are 12 species of crab in the country. Of them, Maila and Shila are the best quality crabs. The countries that were popular destinations for prawn exports now have a great demand for crabs, including: Hong Kong, Singapore, the US, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, and others.
Munshiganj and Burigoalini unions of Shyamnagar upazila have established several crab- fattening farms with the help of government and private initiatives.
Pavel from Burigoalini union said that, after buying them from the markets, crabs are fattened in small cages. As a result, within 20-22 days, all crabs weigh twice their size after shedding their shells. The quicker the shells are shed, the softer the crabs remain. This increases their demand on the export marker.
Due to its profitability and lower risk of contracting diseases, crab-fattening in cages is increasingly popular among farmers.
A local women's community leader, Monika Rani, from Norarchak area of Debhata, has trained 55 women, with the help of the government, to fatten crabs in ponds using cages. The government has provided them with 150 cages.
Monika talked about her experiences with this correspondent, and shared her satisfaction in crab farming. She hopes for greater successes in the future with this business.
Fisheries Officer of the Satkhira district Fisheries Department Shahidul Alam Sarder said that, due to its profitability, crab farming has started becoming popular all over the country. Most of the exports originate from Satkhira.
Other than that, the government is also providing the necessary sponsorship and training to promote this particular sector, Sarder said.
The total number of crabs produced (in metric tons) from the year 2013-17
No of crabs produced (in metric tons)