“King of Shrimp” ushers in eco-reforms

20:37 | 30/05/2016
Minh Phu Seafood Corporation, the leading shrimp firm in Vietnam, is investing heavily in a global responsible value chain of shrimp, with an emphasis on food safety, environmental protection, social welfare, animal health, and welfare.

Founded in the patriotic land of Ca Mau, Minh Phu Seafood Corporation has grown into a leading shrimp manufacturer and exporter after 24 years of growth. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the founder Le Van Quang and his family, Minh Phu is even known by the nickname “King of Shrimp”. The factories are well equipped with modern facilities allowing them to process more than 300 metric tons (MT) of raw shrimp on a daily basis. Together with a sewage and water treatment system that meets international standards (ISO, BAP, ASC, Global GAP, Naturland, HACCP) Minh Phu ensures hygienic conditions and a safe working environment for their employees. The company is also recognised by many global welfare certifications, such as WCA, BSCI, SMETA, WALMART, and COSTCO.

In 2014 and 2015, Minh Phu’s export turnover reached $730 million and $550 million respectively. The firm is striving to push their exports to $1 billion within the next five years.

According to many seafood reviews, Minh Phu gains a combined advantage from their vertically-integrated production, which is comprised of Specific Pathogen Resistant (SPR) breeding stock production, a large company-owned farming area, a sustainable shrimp supply chain, and modern manufacturing plants. These values help Minh Phu maintain a high level of transparency and traceability when exporting products certified by ASC and BAP. Moreover, Minh Phu has invested heavily in processing value-added and premium products such as Ring, Nobashi, Sushi, Tempura, Breaded, and Marinated shrimp.

These types of product require massive investment not only in terms of equipment, but also in human resource training. As such, few other manufacturers in the industry can match Minh Phu’s standards. Thanks to their advanced production technology and their range of high-value-added products, Minh Phu enjoys an apparent advantage over both domestic and international seafood firms.

According to founder Le Van Quang, to achieve its export target of $1 billion, the firm will need 100,000 MT of shrimp for its current production, increasing to 200,000 MT by 2020. Quang added that at present, Minh Phu Corporation has 900 hectares of their own shrimp farms, 12,000 hectares of contracted organic shrimp farms, and 100,000 hectares of contracted local farming households, thus ensuring an adequate and high-quality supply for its factories. 

However, although the future certainly looks bright for Minh Phu’s Quang, when speaking with VIR, the “King of Shrimp” also revealed some of his worries. First of all, he is concerned about various expenses that firms and farmers must bear, including the costs generated from insufficient infrastructure in the Mekong Delta area, the cost of broodstock, and expensive feed. As farming materials are higher in Vietnam than in other competitor countries, labour costs tend to increase as well, thus driving up the production costs and ultimately, the selling price of shrimp.

Secondly, the excessive use of antibiotics in shrimp farming is a global plague that has spread to Vietnam. These chemicals have untold harmful effects on both marine and human health. Another serious issue is the lack of environmental awareness of shrimp farmers who are deforesting and polluting while expanding and operating their farming areas. These issues have now become great challenges to the Vietnamese shrimp sector as well as the wider field of agriculture.

Realising these challenges from quite an early stage, Minh Phu has carried out extensive research and started building a “Responsible Value Chain of Shrimp”. In this value chain, the farming process will focus on food safety, environmental protection, and improving farmers’ livelihoods. The responsible value chain starts with processes deployed under various types of farming models that are geared toward balanced eco-systems, environmental protection, and improving revenues for farmers. One of the most significant models is the mangrove shrimp farming model, which encourages the use of pathogen-resistant post-larvae shrimp as well as re-growing the mangrove forest. As a result, farmers benefit from higher production while the forest coverage is increased.

Another model, named “shrimp – rice rotation”, has farmers alternating a shrimp raising season with a rice season in order to increase the environmental stability for both rice and shrimp. The rice season will support the shrimp season in terms of absorbing the waste and toxic gas generated from shrimp farming. Products from the rice season are also used as feed for the shrimp. Changing the environment from brackish water to fresh water will also reduce potential diseases for shrimp.

Minh Phu is also carrying out a low-density farming model of raising shrimp with a strong immune system. By utilising the advantage of their owned hatchery, Minh Phu has successfully domesticated the imported SPR brookstocks to produce SPR post-larvae shrimp to supply farmers. The company’s supply chain will help to introduce the model and provide guidance to ensure the farmers comply with the model’s procedure in order to maximise production yields and minimise losses. In addition, these robust shrimp will be raised in a model that mimics the natural habitat of shrimp, including naturally fermented food. This model will help to balance the eco-system, re-use water, and protect the environment.

In the near future, Minh Phu will establish social enterprises to deploy these farming models, whereby farmers can gain certifications (BAP, ASC, Global GAP, Naturland, BIO Suisse, and EU BIO) for their value chains.

Before reaching consumers, products have to go through various parts of the value chain, from cultivation, harvesting and manufacturing, to logistics and distribution. Minh Phu wants to foster a well-knit value chain, in which each person in the chain fully understands their responsibility in terms of creating a greater resonant value. Each person along the value chain will be responsible for their part, striving towards the highest product quality possible.

“We position ourselves as a responsible enterprise which aims to create a complete ecosystem, while remaining focused on achieving an export turnover target of $1 billion. More importantly, we want to bring the best products to our clients and consumers, together with instilling a strong sense of responsibility in our farmers, workers, and partners throughout the supply chain. If all of them fully understand the desired effect of their actions, the products arriving in the customers’ hands will be fresh, safe, and delicious, and will also be of service to both society and the environment,” said Le Van Quang. 

Clearly, Minh Phu is striving to differentiate itself from any regional rivals. Thankfully, the edge they have carved for themselves is one that goes hand-in-hand with the sustainable development of the Vietnamese shrimp sector. By joining Minh Phu’s “Responsible shrimp value chain” and using Minh Phu products, consumers can contribute to the firm’s social and environmental good deeds.

By By Anh Viet

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