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Crayfish help a farmer earn a better income for his family

For many years, Mr Anouvong Luangxay (Nou) was downhearted because his efforts at rearing animals did not lead to profits that would supplement the income from his farm.

The 35-year-old owner of Nouna Farm in Mai village of Sikhottbong district, located to west of Vientiane, saw his fortunes rise and fall repeatedly as he tried breeding poultry and set up a small fish farm to generate extra income for his family.

Now, Mr Anouvong is finally earning between 8 million and 15 million kip every month, all thanks to his decision to try his hand at breeding crayfish.

A female crayfish with eggs that will soon hatch.

After his poultry and fish businesses collapsed, Mr Anouvong knew he could not be successful in these fields. But he loved the work he was doing and his success is a testament to his dedication.

He admitted that he had lost a lot of money on his chicken, duck and fish farms. Hundreds of chickens were felled by seasonal diseases even thought he used different techniques to care for them. With every failure, even his family members stopped supporting him but Mr Anouvong never stopped thinking of new ways to supplement his income.

He decided to try his luck with crayfish even though he had no knowledge of the techniques for raising the freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters.

One of Mr Anouvong's friends, who managed a crayfish business, taught him some techniques for taking care of them.

One factor which inspired him to start this business is that crayfish is a relatively new product in Laos with high demand and high prices.

The investment made in breeding crayfish farm can also generate quick returns and a lot of profit.

Mr Anouvong said if someone started this business with 1 million kip, including the purchase of 100 baby crayfish for 300,000 kip, construction of a 1 square metre tank, two kilograms of animal food and wages for workers, the person could still generate profits of 70 to 80 percent.

Mr Anouvong started with 100 baby crayfish bought from his friend for a trial run in February 2015.

It was a good start, and after two months of taking care of them, he could sell them all in a very short period.

He promoted his crayfish farm through Facebook by posting photos of his produce in the morning. By evening, they were all sold out, he said.

At that time, one kilogram of crayfish - consisting of 20 to 25 animals - was worth 350,000 kip in the local market. A pair of breeders went for about 280,000 kip.

This encouraged him to think about increasing the production and for a change, his plans received strong support from his family.

He ordered 300 baby crayfish in May 2015 but soon ran into an unexpected problem - all the animals died because he did not know the techniques for raising a larger number of crayfish. The millions of kip he had invested were lost and he found himself in a very difficult situation.

Mr Anouvong said if only a small number of crayfish are raised, they can be cared for quite easily. “But if we have a lot of them while we do not have the necessary experience, that is a problem,” he said.

He did not know the proper quantity of food to be provided to the crayfish and he was not aware of how to monitor the quality of water. “These are the main reasons for a high rate of fatalities,” he added.

However, Mr Anouvong never stopped seeking the right solutions to overcome the problems he was facing. He began doing his own research by watching videos on YouTube and discussion the matter with his friends. At the same time, he tried to use various theories for breeding the animals.

This time, he ordered 450 baby crayfish and released them in his water tanks on July 2015.

Mr Anouvong, who is also a government official, slowly succeeded in breeding more crayfish with a very low percentage of fatalities. He also became a supplier of baby crayfish and breeders.

The babies and breeders are kept in nine tanks, the largest of which is 5 metres by 6metres. The rest are 2 metres by 4 metres each.

The level of water is about 40 cm deep. Water is pumped from the Mekong River to supply the farm because it is located on the river bank.

Nouna Farm now has 150 female and male breeders and 120 potential breeders. It can produce about 5,000 baby crayfish every month and they can be sold when they are four to five months old.

The prices depend on the size, with the cheapest going for 3,000 kip per crayfish. The farm sells a pair of breeders for about 160,000 kip.

Crayfish can breed when they are four to five months old and a female can produce 300 to 500 babies.

The female can give birth around the year, provided the temperature is not lower than 25 degrees Celsius or higher than 30 degrees Celsius. The suitable level of water Ph should be between 8 and 9.5.

Mr Anouvong said his main target is to sell baby crayfish and breeders, but he also distributes young animals for consumption.

Now, many people are interested in raising crayfish because the demand is very high. Though the price has fallen from 280,000 kip a kilogram to about 160,000 kip, it is still considered to be high.

Mr Anouvong is part of a group of six crayfish farms, but only two produce and supply baby crayfish.

The group has collected import statistics from two major shrimp importers in Vientiane, which show that combined supply of two firms is 10 tonnes of general shrimps per week in Laos during the peak season and about 8 tonnes in normal times. But members of the group can supply only 300 kg to 500 kg of crayfish per week.

The group has also surveyed the demand for crayfish and found markets now need about 1 tonne a week.

The group's members want to increase production but their limited funds are a problem and their methods of raising the animals are not secure. They are worried about possible risks if try to raise a massive amount of crayfish.

Mr Anouvong has trained family members to take care of the animals but they cannot replace him. Human resources are vital if he wants to increase the quantity of baby crayfish and breeders, he said.

The group is working with a crayfish association in Thailand to share experiences and techniques. But it does not have a connection with the public sector yet because the members' farms are small and some are still in a trial phase.

Mr Anouvong said he plans to increase the production of baby crayfish from 5,000 pawns to 10,000 pawns per month in future.

For now, he does not worry about taking care of the animals but he is concerned about ways to increase the sales of baby animals and breeders.

The purpose of his farm is different from others - he wants to sell baby pawns and breeders while others raise and supply crayfish to markets for consumption. Those raising the crayfish for consumption do not have to give any sort of explanations to customers about the quality of the produce, according to Mr Anouvong.

But the Nouna Farm has to provide a lot of information and guidelines to people who want to buy the baby crayfish for breeding. This information must be updated and disseminated on platforms such as Facebook, he said.

But Mr Anouvong said he has no time to regularly update such information because he is an official who spends a lot of time in office.

By Manichanh Pansivongxay
(Latest Update September 22, 2017)

 

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