Prawn industry facing shortage of land for expansion

By Elaine Ang

MANY have considered prawn cultivating as a farmer's job which is back-breaking and yield low returns but J.W. group of companies chief executive officer Michael Ting begged to differ. 

“I tell them it's basically about returns. The industry gives very good returns and if a farm is managed properly, it can achieve an average of 30 to 40 times higher returns than oil palm in terms of per unit of land,” he said. 

Ting said the J.W. group began with intention of going into properties but when a prawn cultivation project came along, it felt that it was opportune to move into prawn farming. 

“We believe we have the capability and resources to learn all about prawn farming and make a success of it,” he said. 

Michael Ting

A major challenge for prawn farming in Malaysia was the shortage of land. Under the Third National Agriculture Policy, Malaysia is required to produce 150,000 metric tonnes of prawns by 2010. 

To achieve the target production rate, Ting said 50,000 hectares were required. “However, at the moment only 7,000 hectares are being used for prawn culture,” he noted.  

He said the potential for the industry was very great especially in terms of export and if there was more land allocated for prawn farming, there was a possibility that prawns could soon become a bigger export than palm oil. 

“The land issue still needs to be solved before production can be increased. Without the government support it is very difficult as the coastal areas are mainly state owned and Malay-reserved land,” he said. 

Once the land issue is resolved, he believes Malaysia can be in the same league as Thailand in terms of the production and export of prawns. 

“Our coastal area (suitable for prawn culture) is three times bigger than Thailand's and our prawn culture industry is older than Thailand's. There is huge potential,” he said, adding that worldwide consumption was about 2 million tonnes per year of which only 60% to 65% was from the wild. 

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