Solidaridad contributed to the finalization of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council group certification methodology and the Asian Seafood Improvement Collaborative's (ASIC) improvement system for extensive and intensive shrimp farming. In Bangladesh, Solidaridad supported 28,693 fish and shrimp farmers. Through the Shrimp Service Centre, a startup company incubated by Solidaridad, a total of 96% of farmers gained technical support and access to high-quality shrimp to stock their ponds. This reduced mortality rates and contributed to a 42% increase in productivity.
A total of 36 farmers in Bangladesh started the conversion of their ponds according to models for integrated mangrove shrimp farming. These are being studied in the framework of Solidaridad’s collaboration with Wageningen and Khulna Universities. Along with STIP, the organizations convened a meeting for over 50 Indian and EU companies and government agencies to find urgent solutions to antibiotics use in shrimp culture. As a result, regional dialogues reached up to 25,000 farmers.
Despite months of constructive preparation talks, the Bangladesh Frozen Foods Association withdrew support for the Bangladesh-EU buyer-seller meeting. The reason for this is they felt it was too early to enter discussions. Solidaridad and STIP will analyze whether there is support from EU buyers for a similar meeting in 2018. Meanwhile, Solidaridad supported the Bangladesh Department of Fisheries with a National Action Plan to improve the position of black tiger shrimp in high-end global markets.
The final round of the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge took place in Vietnam and a consortium of impact investors and aquaculture companies selected five winners whose innovations have the most potential to improve the supply chain.
Regional Commodity Programmes
South & South-east Asia
The Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Linkages Programme increased the competitiveness of 28,702 aquaculture farmers to supply to domestic and international markets. Aquaculture farmers have earned more income through increased production while decreasing production cost. Across all selected species, the average yield per hectare has increased by 42%. This programme also supported the establishment of five aquaculture collection centres in which 2,576 farmers from 73 producer groups are able to sell their produce.
Whiteleg shrimp prices are decreasing due to intensification, consolidation in supply chains and treatment with phosphates. Meanwhile, black tiger shrimp prices are rising due to scarcity. Because black tiger shrimp cannot be cultured as intensively as whiteleg shrimp and has higher gastronomic value, the way forward is to invest in quality and sustainability and to steer away from price competition with whiteleg shrimp. Solidaridad, therefore, envisions separate strategies for each species.
On the one hand, Solidaridad will put more emphasis on extensive black tiger shrimp production systems for high-end markets, helping small-scale producers keep up with sustainability and transparency requirements. This will occur in the framework of integrated culture systems that help coastal shrimp farmers adapt to climate change. On the other hand, Solidaridad is also supportive of highly intensive recirculation systems that drastically reduce land and resource use in whiteleg culture.
However, mainstream certification systems treat all shrimp the same, which risks creating disorder that neglects the potential of extensive black tiger shrimp and highly intensive whiteleg culture. More generally, certification systems have shown little innovation potential: they still rely on expensive internal control and audit systems, whereas new technologies such as blockchain offer new perspectives for verification.
Unfortunately, mainstream certification systems have tended to push for a one-size-fits-all solution for all shrimp, which neglects the potential of both extensive black tiger shrimp and highly intensive whiteleg culture. Solidaridad is hopeful that new improvement systems will help markets players differentiate between shrimp species and production systems. For example, the Asian Seafood Improvement Collaborative has separate standards for black tiger and whiteleg shrimp. Its extensive black tiger shrimp standard is the best choice option according to Seafood Watch’s assessment, offering opportunities for smallholders to meet higher standards and attain a more sustainable income.
Considering the enormous importance of mangroves for both climate change mitigation and adaptation in vulnerable coastal areas, more should be done in the context of shrimp farming improvement to promote restoration.
The Dutch government and the European Union are Solidaridad’s most important donors.
In 2017, Solidaridad participated in the Seafood Watch Multi-stakeholder Group, the Asian Seafood Improvement Collaborative, and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council Working Group on group certification methodology. The main goal of these partnerships is to create designated sustainability spaces for shrimp from extensive and intensive production systems.
Solidaridad also led a multi-stakeholder collaboration on the Bangladesh National Action Plan for the shrimp sector. This offers opportunities for a more focussed development strategy to position improved extensive monodon from transparent supply chains in high-end European Union markets.
New partners include The European delegation, GiZ German Development Agency, IP Consult from Germany, the Myanmar Fisheries Federation and the Department of Fisheries for the implementation of the Myanmar Sustainable Aquaculture Programme. In 2017, Solidaridad won the tender for the Coastal Aquaculture component of MYSAP.
Unfortunately, mainstream certification systems have tended to push for a one-size-fits-all solution for all shrimp. As a result, they risk creating a messy middle that neither promotes the potential of extensive black tiger shrimp nor pushes whiteleg shrimp towards highly intensive culture. In general, certification systems have shown too little innovation potential. For example, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council’s Group Certification Methodology relies on expensive internal control and audit systems, whereas new technologies such as blockchain offer important new perspectives for verification, and slashing audit costs while increasing transparency and trust.
There has been much contention around EU food safety audits of the Indian Residue Monitoring Plan. There still is a lot of uncertainty about whether the EU is going to keep current measures in place. These include inspecting half the containers exported to the EU. This results in delisting companies that have containers rejected for exceeding maximum residue levels for antibiotics. The EU emphasizes that although India has control systems in place, the level of primary production is not sufficiently under control. Solidaridad has responded by organizing a first national EU-India shrimp dialogue during the India International Seafood Show in Goa, (January 2018) in collaboration with the Netherlands Embassy in New Delhi.
In Bangladesh, it remains a challenge to fully align stakeholders around the improvement of supply chain governance. This is particularly due to the fact that high prices provide a disincentive for improvement. The most important issues are the development of credible systems for quality assurance and traceability and the positioning of extensive black tiger shrimp in high-end markets, which requires investments and cooperation beyond farm level. Solidaridad will need to do more to forge collaboration between local processors and global buyers, investing in capacity building and long-term partnerships.