Hatcheries and nurseries
Vietnam has a large number of shrimp hatcheries ranging from the largest in the world to small backyard hatcheries in the Mekong Delta. In 2015 there were estimated 1,800 hatcheries, of which 250 operating on a commercial scale. Many of the larger companies, such as Viet Uc for Litopenaeus vannamei (whiteleg shrimp) and Minh Phu Aquatic Larvae Co. for Penaeus monodon (black tiger shrimp), control the entire production cycle, including breeding. They produce quality seed which is mostly sold to larger farms or traders.
Until recently, most hatcheries were located in the south central coast region of Vietnam thanks to favourable conditions. In recent years however some bigger operators, such as Viet Uc company, decided to set up hatcheries closer to the main areas of production. Viet Uc is specialized in L. vannamei seed production. With eight hatcheries it produces more than 50 million PL per year and accounts for more than 20% of the PL market in Vietnam. Since 2015 Viet Uc operates one hatchery in Ngoc Hien district (Ca Mau province) and nowadays Viet Uc operates one of the world’s largest shrimp hatcheries in Bac Lieu province with a capacity of 15 million PL per year.
As the main shrimp production (grow-out) occurs in other areas than where the hatcheries are located many smaller entrepreneurs specialize in nursing. They buy large quantities of naupili or PL from hatcheries or traders that are transported to nurseries located in the areas of production. Transport is generally done by road for which seed is packed in oxygenated bags. In more remote areas, transport happens by boat. Nurseries consist of a small number of ponds. In the nurseries naupili or PL are nursed until they can be sold to either traders, middlemen, or directly to farmers. In remote areas, such nurseries also mix with natural seed. In general, the quality of seed from small operations is poor.
The large number of small hatcheries and nurseries (it is estimated that there are several thousands hatcheries/nurseries) is a problem in Vietnam with regard to the high mortality rates that shrimp farmers are often confronted with.
Shrimp feed production is dominated by large, mostly foreign owned companies, such as Uni President (UPV), CP, Grobest, CJ Vina and Sheng Long. Shrimp feed in Vietnam is expensive compared to other countries and foreign ownership might explain why. While total domestic shrimp feed production was estimated at 478,000 tonnes in 2013, there is a lot of uncertainty about exact demands and future development. Nevertheless, it is generally acknowledged that domestic feed production is not meeting demands, which is the reason why a part of the shrimp feed is imported. Imported feed is in general more expensive.
Chemicals and medicines
Different to fish farming, medicines and chemicals deserve attention as inputs to shrimp farming. Many farmers make use of medicines and chemicals, because feed traders advise them to do so. Medicines and chemicals are also sold by local shops or pharmacies. Since pharmacies sell products that are not meant or approved for use in food production, the use of these products can lead to rejections of harvested shrimp products during food safety inspections. In worse scenarios, entire containers can be rejected from import upon arrival in the country of destination.