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Monday, September 17, 2012

Malaysian Giant Freshwater Prawns (udang galah) industry

SRMM Aquaculture to pump in RM300m:
Malaysian Giant Freshwater Prawns (udang galah) industry

A GOOD eight years after labouring on research and development (R&D), the privately held SRMM Aquaculture Sdn Bhd is poised to pump in as much as RM300 million to help position itself as a major player in the Malaysian Giant Freshwater Prawns (udang galah) industry.

If SRMM can walk the talk, this will also help the country position itself as a leading player in the global industry.

Ironically, even though the industry is known as the Malaysian Giant Freshwater Prawns industry, Malaysia itself is not a major player on the global scale.

The industry got its name in the 1960's after a Malaysian scientist Dr Shao-Wen Ling, who was then based at the Marine Fisheries Institute in Penang, discovered how to raise baby prawns from the juvenile stage.

Shao was the first to complete the life cycle of the giant freshwater prawn (which scientific name is Macrobrachium rosenbergii).

"Since the discovery, many countries have applied Dr Shao's discovery and have developed their own giant freshwater prawn industry. However, there were no major developments for Malaysia in that area for some decades," SRMM's managing director Datuk Tony De Silva told Business Times in an interview.

Nevertheless, De Silva believes that Malaysia still has got what it takes to become a meaningful player in the fresh water giant prawn industry.

"No doubt, we have fallen behind, as the recent statistics show," said De Silva, pointing out that in 2007, Malaysia had only produced 246 tonnes of giant freshwater prawns.

On the converse, Taiwan, Bangladesh, India and Thailand were producing between 8,300 tonnes and 27,000 tonnes of processed giant freshwater prawns.

Processed prawns are mainly those that have been washed, sorted and peeled.

"Malaysia has yet to be able to produce these giant prawns commercially in a big way. However, SRMM has now perfected the entire process of producing it commercially. We believe we can help the country spearhead the development of the industry," he said.

The company commercially produces these prawns from its R&D centre in Kuantan. 

It currently produces about 30 tonnes to 50 tonnes of giant freshwater prawns a year over a 16.2ha site.

By middle of next year, it will expand its production facility by another 24.3ha - a move that could boost its production to more than 100 tonnes a year.

"We will be investing RM10 million for the expansion," said De Silva.

In addition, over the near to medium term, SRMM plans to invest another RM300 million to acquire and develop 202ha sites to produce these giant freshwater prawns.

"We will be in talks with several parties, such as government agencies, state government, as well as government-linked companies on various tie-up opportunities. We are also looking at smallholders like farmers to encourage them to rear these prawns using our technology and knowledge," he added.

"From the data that we have, there are thousands of hectares of abandoned or unused agriculture land. If a significant portion of these lands are used to produce udang galah, it will certainly bring positive impact to the economy," De Silva said.

Read more: SRMM Aquaculture to pump in RM300m

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