Tank used for grouper farming. (Photo: Stock File/FIS)
Grouper farms still hurting from typhoon Morakot
Tuesday, January 05, 2010, 00:10 (GMT + 9)
Taiwan grouper (Epinephelus spp) farmers continue to suffer from the effects of August 2009’s Typhoon Morakot. With 90 per cent of grouper farms washed away or clogged with silt due to the typhoon, farmers are still struggling to recover their markets.
“Only about 10 per cent of the original grouper farms remain,” stressed Chen Chung-min, chief secretary of the Linbian Farmers Association.
Taiwan’s aquaculture industry had been profiting generously from its grouper farms prior to Typhoon Morakot, with exports surpassing USD 40 million in 2008 – a 48-fold jump from the 2005-7 numbers. Also known as rock fish, grouper is raised in seawater aquaculture ponds in Pingtung and especially the Linbian and Jiadong townships.
After a disaster like Typhoon Morakot, aquaculture farmers take at least two years to re-establish their stocks and begin exporting again, according to Chen. And farmers need a source of income to survive during this lengthy interim period, Taipei Times reports.
Grouper farmers must generate at least TWD 15 million (USD 468,282) to start a pond, Chen said, because theirs is a “high risk, high investment return” business.
“Some farmers have lost more than TWD 50 million (USD 1.6 million) because of Typhoon Morakot,” he said.
According to Chen, to cope with the devastation of their farms, some farmers raised funds to continue growing grouper, some began farming tilapia or other cheaper fish and others exited the market when banks refused farmers loans.
Pingtung, Kaohsiung and Taitung counties’ tropical climate make them perfect locations for farmed grouper to thrive, allowing for greater live exports, which are extremely lucrative, said Hu Hsing-hua, vice chairman of the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture.
Highly priced Taiwanese grouper has been extensively marketed and exported to Hong Kong in recent years, where they are popular seafood. Expensive restaurants in China’s Shanghai and Guangzhou also seek them out, Hu said.
Competing exporters in China and Malaysia have enlarged their businesses as Taiwanese grouper exports fell.
“The only way to prevent these competitors from stealing Taiwan’s export markets is to resume production quickly,” Hu asserted.
- Grouper industry recovery costly
- Typhoon decimates grouper ponds
By Natalia Real