Since 23 May 2011, news of a serious shrimp disease outbreak occurring in Viet Nam started to circulate in a number of communication media. Preliminary findings, based on epidemiological observations and other relevant field data, confirmed that a disease outbreak occurred (since early 2010 and continuing in 2011) with high mortalities among black tiger shrimp and white-leg shrimp. In terms of impacts at the provincial level, in Soc Trang Province, for e.g., about 68.5 percent of shrimp producing areas were affected, where about 68 percent of farmers suffered losses. In the other two affected provinces (Bac Lieu and Ca Mau provinces) an estimated 30 000 farming households were affected. The pattern of disease spread is consistent with an infectious agent which is currently unknown. The spread pattern and the symptoms are not similar to any shrimp disease outbreak in the country prior to 2010. Analysis of farm-level and pond-level questionnaires provided preliminary insight on a number of determinants (risk factors) associated with this ‘unknown’ disease.
The Government of Viet Nam has put in place a number of measures. However, the outbreak is still very much in an emergency situation, with some indication that the disease is still spreading. Seventy percent of the shrimp production in the Mekong Delta region comes from the above-mentioned three provinces, which are seriously affected by this epizootic. The impact on the livelihood of shrimp farmers is huge considering that for most farmers, shrimp farming is the sole source of livelihood, having shifted from rice and field crop farming. While large-scale farmers have covered their immediate needs, several thousand poor small-scale farmers who have lost their production are facing difficulties for restocking as they have lost their financial capital (expected income from the harvest) thus disabling them from having the resources to purchase input for the next production cycle. In addition, the competent authority on aquatic animal health and aquaculture needs to be supported to better understand the currently unknown disease and design interventions aimed at reducing its spread in a sustainable manner.
The project was designed to address these critical needs. It will thus provide immediate assistance to counteract the ongoing emergency situation in the field, through the provision of seedlings for 2 000 poor farmers for the next production cycle. It will also provide technical support to confirm the diagnosis of the currently unknown disease, improve shrimp on-farm biosecurity; improve the aquatic animal emergency preparedness guidelines and develop an aquatic animal health management strategy for follow-up actions. The above is expected to contribute to halt the spread of the ongoing shrimp disease and protect the livelihoods of shrimp farmers.