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Aquaculture Research, 2010, 41, e634^e642

doi:10.1111/j.1365-2109.2010.02581.x

Tropical spiny lobster (Panulirus ornatus) farming in


Vietnam bioeconomics and perceived constraints
to development
Elizabeth H Petersen1,2 & Truong Ha Phuong3
1

School of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Western Australia, Crawley,WA, Australia

Applied Economist, Advanced Choice Economics, Bateman,WA, Australia

National Center for Mariculture Research and Development, Research Institute for Aquaculture No. 3, Khanh Hoa,Vietnam

Correspondence: E H Petersen, Advanced Choice Economics, 30 Dean Road, Bateman WA 6150, Australia. E-mail: liz.petersen@
tpg.com.au

Abstract
This paper presents bioeconomic data on lobster farming inVietnam, and perceived constraints to the development of the industry. The farms were found to be
protable, with an average benet cost ratio of 1.44
and an average net revenue of 262 million VND year  1 (or just under US$15000 year  1). Investment in the enterprise is high compared with
other enterprises in the region. However, disease has
the potential to devastate lobster crops and there is little information available to lobster farmers about disease prevention and management. Hence, the lobster
enterprise is a high-risk high-return industry. The predominant perceived constraints to the development of
lobster operations include water quality and temperature issues, insucient access to credit, good-quality
aordable feed and accurate information about technology improvements in lobster farming. It seems that
improving the livelihood of lobster farmers inVietnam
is dependent on reducing their dependence on wild
stocks for seed and feed, improving access to credit
and improving technical and market information
ows. Such improvements are likely to lead to higher
protability, given high export demand and hence sustained high prices for their lobster product.

Keywords: bioeconomics, lobster, Vietnam, development constraints


Introduction
Tropical spiny lobster (Panulirus ornatus) is one of the
worlds most valuable seafoods, with a strong and in-

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creasing global demand in Asia, Europe and America


(Hart 2009). Almost the entire global lobster production is from capture sheries, where stocks are either
at their maximum sustainable yield or overexploited
and in decline (Phillips 2000, 2005). Grow-out culture of lobster is not practiced widely. Jes and Hooker (2000) is the only published study known to the
authors that analyses the economic feasibility of lobster culture anywhere in the world. Jes and Hooker
(2000) consider land-based experimental grow-out
of spiny lobsters in New Zealand and conclude that
the economic feasibility of these systems relies on reducing infrastructure and operating costs, perhaps
through seacage culture or sea ranching (Phillips
2000).
Seacage culture of tropical spiny lobster started in
Vietnam in1992 and expanded rapidly in the early to
mid-2000s, driven by a strong export market demand. Production was estimated to be 1900 metric
tonnes in 2006, produced in approximately 49 000
cages and valued at more than US$65 million. This
declined signicantly in 2007 to approximately
1400 tonnes due to milky disease, although disease
outbreaks have not been so severe in recent years
(Hung & Tuan 2008). The industry is reliant on wildcaught puerulus, which are reared in small cages in
shallow embayments until they are approximately
30 g, after which they are sold to farmers for growout to market size (approximately 1kg) (Williams
2004). Commercially viable hatchery technology is
still to be developed (Williams 2007). Grow-out feeding strategies include shrimp and crabs during the
early months, and later low-value sh (by-catch or

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Aquaculture Research, 2010, 41, e634^e642

Bioeconomics of lobster farming inVietnam E H Petersen & T H Phuong

by-products). Grow-out culture of the lobster generally occurs in central Vietnam ^ from the Quang Binh
province to the Binh Thuan province ^ with most of
the production in Khanh Hoa and Phu Yen (Bell,
Rothlisberg, Munro, Loneragan, Nahs, Ward & Andrew 2005).
This paper is part of a larger project funded by the
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) aimed at identifying policy, institutional and economic constraints to the adoption of
manufactured feed diets for lobster, mud crabs and tilapia in Vietnam. One strategy in pursuit of this goal
is the development of a bioeconomic model of lobster
aquaculture to identify the signicant input factors
contributing to economic performance and the eect
of various feeding strategies on protability. To populate the bioeconomic model, a household survey of 40
lobster farmers in central Vietnam was conducted in
the rst half of 2009. The purpose of this paper is to
present the lobster household data, conduct a simple
bioeconomic analysis of the data and present farmer
perceptions of constraints to the development of their
operation.
The paper proceeds as follows: the methodology
for conducting the survey and analysing the survey
data is presented in Methodology. The data from the
household surveys, simple bioeconomic analysis and
farmer perceptions of constraints to development are
presented inResults. The paper concludes with a discussion on the implications of the survey results and
analysis for sheries policy, management and research prioritization (Discussion and conclusion).

Results
This section is divided into eight sub-sections: general household information (General household information), stocking and production information
(Stocking and production information), cage and
other equipment information (Cage and other equipment information), feed information (Feed information), credit requirements and information (Credit
requirements and information), other inputs to production (Other inputs to production), bioeconomic
analysis (Bioeconomic analysis) and farmer views
on constraints to the development of their lobster operations (Farmer views on constraints to development of their lobster operations). Generally, average
data are presented, with the minimum and maximum levels recorded in parentheses.

General household information


The general household information is presented in
Table1. The predominant level of education is secondary school, followed by primary and high school education. There is an average of 5.3 members in each
household, with approximately half of these members being male.

Stocking and production information


The spiny lobster aquaculture industry relies on the
wild capture of swimming pueruli or recently settled
juveniles by local shers. Upon capture, these seed
Table 1 General household information

Methodology
The household surveys were administered to generate information for bioeconomic analysis of lobster
farming in Vietnam and to elicit farmer perceptions
on the constraints to the development of their operations. As most lobster farming is conducted in central
Vietnam, the surveys were administered in Khanh
Hoa and Phu Yen, two adjoining provinces in central
Vietnam. The questionnaire was pilot-tested and administered by sta at the Research Institute for Aquaculture Number 3 (RIA3). Analysis of the data was
conducted by the authors. Readers are encouraged
to contact the authors for a copy of the questionnaire
if they are interested in understanding further the
data collection procedure.

Highest level of education (% of households)


No formal education
Primary school
Secondary schoolw
High schoolz
Vocational training
Average number of members in the household
Average number of male members in the household

3
28
48
18
3
5.3 (3.08.0)
2.8 (1.07.0)

Minimum and maximum levels recorded in parentheses in this


and subsequent tables unless stated otherwise.
Primary school refers to the rst 5 years of education, generally when students are aged 6^10.
wSecondary school refers to the subsequent 4 years of education,
generally when students are aged 11^14.
zHigh school refers to an additional 3 years of education, generally when students are aged 15^17.
Vocational training is a further 1 or 2 years of training in a
specic eld, often taken straight after high school ^ in this case,
one farmer had completed training at an agricultural college.

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Aquaculture Research r 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Aquaculture Research, 41, e634^e642

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Bioeconomics of lobster farming inVietnam E H Petersen & T H Phuong

Aquaculture Research, 2010, 41, e634^e642

Table 2 Nursery phase stocking information

Table 4 General nursery and grow-out information

% of households with the nursery phase


Average duration of the nursery
phase (months)
Price of seed lobster (VND seed  1)
Total length of seed lobster start
of the nursery phase (cm seed  1)
Weight of juvenile lobster end of the
nursery phase (g seed  1)
Average stocking rate (lobsters cage  1)
Average stocking density (lobsters m  2)

Average duration of nursery and grow-out


phases (months)
Average carapace length of lobsters at harvest
(cm)
Average weight of lobsters at harvest (kg)
% of households where weight of lobsters is
affected by disease
Weight of disease-affected lobsters
(kg lobster  1)
Weight of non-disease-affected lobsters
(kg lobster  1)
Survival rate (%)
Price of harvested lobsters (1000 VND kg  1)
Average price 5 years ago (1000 VND kg  1)
% of households where disease affects the
price received
If so, disease-affected price (1000 VND kg  1)
If not, non-disease-affected price (VND kg  1)

100
4.0 (2.07.0)
66 972 (50 000120 000)
1.2 (1.01.5)
29.5 (10.080.0)
193 (100300)
85 (13167)

lobsters are sold to merchants, who hold them for1^2


days in baskets suspended in on-land tanks. They are
then transported for up to 12 h to grow-out farms
(Ngoc,Thuy & Ha 2009; Thuy, Ha & Danh 2009).
Grow-out aquaculture of lobster requires a number of phases. The rst phase is the nursery phase,
where postlarval juveniles are reared and protected
during their most vulnerable stage. After this nursery phase, the lobsters are transferred to larger
cages with smaller stocking rates. Cage size increases
and stocking rates decrease as the lobsters increase
in size to maximize survival. Hence, after the nursery
phase, there may be a number of grow-out phases.
Lobster stocking information for the nursery phase
is presented in Table 2. All households have a nursery
phase for the lobsters, lasting on average 4 months.
Seed are stocked at an average length of 1.2 cm and
are purchased for an average 67 000VND seed  1.
The average stocking rate for the nursery phase is
193 lobsters cage  1, which is the equivalent of
85 lobsters m  2. The lobsters are stocked in all
months of the year, although 58% of households
stock in either January, April or November.
Lobster stocking and harvesting information for
the various grow-out phases of production is shown
in Table 3. Each phase of production was dened by
the farmer according to when they moved their lobsters to dierent-sized cages with dierent stocking

18.1 (16.021.0)
25.0 (20.030.0)
0.95 (0.701.10)
100
0.8 (0.51.1)
1.0 (0.71.2)
56.8 (1080)
798 (6001300)
509 (400800)
97
156 (50390)
839 (6001200)

densities. All households had at least one grow-out


phase, with 90% of the households reporting a second grow-out phase, and 38% of the households reporting a third grow-out phase. On average, farmers
considered the rst grow-out phase to be from the
completion of the nursery phase (30 g) until the lobsters weighed approximately 225 g. Phase 2 is from
the completion of phase 1 until a size of approximately 659 g. Phase 3 is from the completion of
phase 2 until a size of approximately 950 g. The average length of each grow-out phase was 5, 6 and 9
months respectively. The stocking density decreased
as the lobsters progressed through each growout phase.
General nursery and grow-out information is presented in Table 4. Overall, the average length of the
nursery and grow-out phases combined was 18
months, after which lobsters were harvested at an
average carapace length of 25 cm and 0.95 kg. All
farmers reported that disease aected the weight of
their lobsters. The average survival rate of lobsters
from nursery stocking to harvest was 57%.

Table 3 Grow-out stocking and harvesting information

% of households with grow-out phase


Weight of lobsters at the end of the phase (g lobster  1)
Carapace length of lobsters at the end of the phase (cm lobster  1)
Average duration of the grow-out phase (months)
Average stocking density (lobsters cage  1)
Average stocking density (lobsters m  3)

Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

100
225

4.8
128
28.0

90
659

6.3
93.9
4.40

38
950
25.0
9.2
86.7
1.80

(30.01000)
(1.012.0)
(60.0200)
(2.00167)

(1001200)
(1.013.0)
(50.0200)
(0.60025.0)

(7001100)
(20.030.0)
(6.013.0)
(60.0100)
(0.8005.6)

^, data not collected.

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Aquaculture Research r 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Aquaculture Research, 41, e634^e642

Aquaculture Research, 2010, 41, e634^e642

Bioeconomics of lobster farming inVietnam E H Petersen & T H Phuong

Table 5 Cage information

Average number of cages per household


Average cage length and width (m)
Average cage depth (m)
Average size of cage (m3)
Average cost of cage purchase (million VND cage  1)
Average time to replacement (years)

Nursery phase

Grow-out phase 1

Grow-out phase 2

Grow-out phase 3

13
(340)
1.5
(1.02.0)
1.5
(0.73.0)
2.7
(1.212.0)
1.07
(0.701.50)
3.2
(2.015.0)

15.8
(470)
2.5
(1.04.0)
1.9
(0.86.0)
16.4
(1.296.0)
2.12
(0.804.00)
6.7
(2.015.0)

15.8
(350)
3.5
(2.03.0)
3.0
(1.26.0)
39.8
(7.296.0)
2.68
(1.203.50)
6.9
(3.015.0)

15.4
(140)
3.7
(3.04.0)
4.6
(1.47.0)
64.6
(12.696.0)
3.17
(2.53.50)
6.8
(4.015.0)

The price received by farmers for the harvested


lobsters was approximately 798 000 VND kg  1, ranging between 600 000 and1300 000 VND kg  1. The
average price received was reportedly 57% higher
than the price received 5 years ago. Ninety-seven
per cent of the farmers reported that disease aected
the price received for the lobsters.
Twenty-three per cent of the respondents culture
lobsters in polyculture with other sh species (sh
grown with lobsters in the same cage). Most of these respondents culture lobster with cobia (34% of polyculture households), snapper (30%) and grouper (22%).

Cage and other equipment information


The number and size of cages used depends on the
phase of production (Table 5). On average, farmers
have approximately 13 nursery cages 1.5  1.5 
1.5 m (2.7 m3) in size. The average cost of these cages
is 1.07 million VND and they need replacing approximately every 3 years. On average, farmers have 15 or
16 cages for each grow-out phase. The cost of these
cages increases for each grow-out phase, ranging
from 2.12 to 3.17 millionVND, and requires replacing
approximately every 7 years.

Most operations have a oating frame (to keep all


the cages in place), which costs approximately 50
million VND lasting approximately 11 years, and a
diving suit, which costs approximately 2 million
VND lasting approximately 5 years. Other equipment
held by a minority of households includes aerators,
boats, electric generators, coracles, compressor machines for cleaning nets and storehouses.

Feed information
Information on feeding lobsters diers depending on
the size of the lobsters as shown in Table 6. The average cost of feed depends on the type of feeds used,
which varies signicantly across lobster producers.
The cost of feed decreases as the lobsters grow older,
with feed for small lobsters (o50 g) averaging
12950 VND kg  1 and feed for the largest lobsters
(4800 g) averaging 10784 VND kg  1. The average
feed mix provided to the lobsters also diers depending on lobster size. The predominant feed ingredient
for the smallest lobsters is small shrimp (on average
57% of the diet), whereas the predominant ingredient
for the largest lobsters is nsh (on average 44% of

Table 6 Feed information

Average cost of feed (VND kg  1)


Average feed ingredients (%)
Finfish
Pellets
Shellfish
Small shrimp
Small swimming crabs (caught by trawl net)

o 50 g

50^200 g

200^800 g

4800 g

12 950
(500020 000)

11 875
(500017 000)

11 833
(500037 000)

10 784
(500017 000)

10
0
4
57
30

33
0
10
39
18

38
0
22
29
11

44
0
24
23
8

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Aquaculture Research r 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Aquaculture Research, 41, e634^e642

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Bioeconomics of lobster farming inVietnam E H Petersen & T H Phuong

Table 7 Farmer perceptions on the adaptability, cost and


growth rates achieved through manufactured feeds
Perceived adaptability of lobsters to
manufactured
feeds (i.e. pelleted diets) (scale of 15, where 1
is easily adaptable and 5 is not adaptable)
% of households that perceive manufactured
feeds to be more expensive than current diets
% of households that perceive that manufactured
feeds lead to faster growth rates

Aquaculture Research, 2010, 41, e634^e642

VietinBank (16% and 11% of respondents who borrowed money respectively).

4.7 (1.05.0)

Other inputs to production


80
13

the diet). Pellets were not used by any of the lobsterfarming households surveyed. Commercial lobster
pellets are not currently available, but are expected
to be available to Vietnamese farmers within the next
3 years (C. Jones, Queensland Primary Industries and
Fiseries, pers. comm.).
The larger project, of which this paper is a part, has
an aim of assessing the potential constraints to the
adoption of manufactured pelleted diets by lobster
growers. Hence, the questionnaire included questions on the perceived adaptability, cost and growth
rates associated with manufactured feeds, as reported in Table 7. Please note that reported perceptions are based on the potential use of pellets
designed for other seafood species (such as shrimp
or catsh) or future lobster pelleted diets, and not
from actual experience. Farmers were asked to rate
the adaptability of lobsters to manufactured feeds
(such as pelleted diets) on a scale of 1^5, where 1 is
easily adaptable and 5 is not adaptable. The average
score was 4.7, indicating that farmers perceive that
lobsters do not readily adapt to manufactured feeds.
Eighty per cent of the households perceive manufactured diets to be more expensive than current diets,
and approximately 13% of the households perceived
that manufactured feeds lead to faster growth rates.

Approximately two household members work on


each lobster operation for a total of 11days week  1
(97% of whom are male). Thirty-eight per cent of
households hired extra workers, averaging nearly
two male workers for a total of 11days week  1 at a
cost of 1.5 millionVND worker  1 month  1.
A minority of households reported some other
miscellaneous costs of production, including costs
associated with cage preparation (not including labour) (6.6 million VND crop  1) and diesel (8.6 millionVND crop  1).

Bioeconomic analysis
The results of the bioeconomic analysis presented in
Petersen and Phuong (in press) using data presented
in this paper are provided in Tables 8 and 9. Readers
are referred to Petersen and Phuong (in press) for the
bioeconomic methodology and more detailed analysis.
All costs of the lobster grow-out enterprise are
summarized in Table 8. The total costs equate to
897 millionVND crop  1 (50397 USD crop  1) or approximately 600 000 VND kg  1 of production. Costs
are dominated by feed (61%) and seed (22%) costs.
Economic statistics are presented in Table 9. Annual statistics include a total revenue of 860 million
(VND year  1). The total costs equate to 598 million
VND year  1. Subtracting the total costs from the total revenue provides a net revenue of 262 million VND year  1. Dividing the total costs by the total
Table 8 Cost structure

Credit requirements and information


Just over half the surveyed households borrow
money to run their lobster operation. It is not known
whether the other half of households did not borrow
money because they could not or chose not to do so.
The average amount borrowed was approximately
119 millionVND crop  1 (which equates to approximately 15% of the total cost requirements) at an average interest rate of 0.7% month  1. The main source
of credit was the AgriBank (used by 74% of respondents who borrowed money). Other sources include
the Bank of Investment Development Vietnam) and

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Cost item
Seed
Feed
Labour
Cages
Other capital items
Interest
Contingency
Total costs
Total costs kg  1
production

Cost
(millionVND
crop  1)

Cost
(USD crop  1)

199.9
547.5
81.0
0.5
11.4
15.0
42.0
897.3
0.6

11 227
30 749
4549
30
641
842
2359
50 397
31

% of
total
costs
22
61
9
0
1
2
5
100

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Bioeconomics of lobster farming inVietnam E H Petersen & T H Phuong

Table 9 Economic statistics


Annual
statistics

Million
Million
USD
VND crop  1 VND year  1 year  1

Total revenue
Total costs
Net revenue
Benefitcost ratio
Net present value (20 years)

1291
897
393
1.44:1
3384

860
598
262

48 323
33 598
14 726

Table 10 Farmer views on constraints to the development


of their lobster operations (% of households with constraints
regarding each issue)
% of households and
description
Seasonal/climate/weather
constraints

190 058

Assuming a discount rate of 5%.

revenue yields a benet cost ratio (BCR) of 1.44, indicating that for every dong spent, the farmer receives
1.44 dong in return. In other words, the prot margin
is 44% of the total costs. Using a discounted cash ow
analysis, the net present value over a 20-year time
horizon (assuming a discount rate of 5%) is 3384 millionVND or 190 058 USD.

Insufficient access to credit

Access to good-quality feed

Cost of good-quality feed

Farmer views on constraints to the


development of their lobster operations
The farmers were asked about whether their lobster
farming operation was constrained by a wide range
of other issues. The results are presented in Table 10.
A number of issues were reported to place no signicant constraint on their aquaculture operations by
farmers in all regions. These issues included the ability to pay back interest costs, access to and cost of
farm labour, access to sucient quantities of seed, access to seed of high enough quality, leasing fees and
other taxes or charges, government regulations or
policies, constraints to allocation of land and/or marine areas, and quality, food safety and/or environmental protection requirements.
Five issues were reported by a signicant number
of households (410%) to place constraints on their
lobster operations. The dominant issue was seasonal/climate/weather constraints, with eighty per
cent of respondents indicating that it aects their
business growth.Water temperature is high between
June and August, restricting lobster growth. Moreover, terrestrial runo during November and December reportedly caused water turbidity, resulting in
some farmers moving their cages to other areas during the wet season. This signicantly aects lobster
growth rates and mortality, especially among juveniles.
A second constraining factor was reported to be
diculties accessing credit. This led some farmers to

Access to good information


about technology improvements
in lobster farming
Ability to pay back interest costs
Cost of farm labour
Access to sufficient quantities of
seed
Access to seed of high enough
quality
Leasing fees and other taxes or
charges
Access to farm labour
Government regulations or
policies
Constraints to allocation of land
and/or marine areas
Quality, food safety and/or
environmental protection
requirements
Other issues

80
Water temperature is high in
June August
Terrestrial run-o during
November to December causes
water turbidity and cages have
to be removed to other places
every wet season
28
Hard to access credit, credit is
obtained through the
middleperson and so interest
rates are high
18
High price, hard to buy, not
much feed available during the
wet season
13
Too high
13
Documentation is not available,
it is hard to access information
on different techniques
3
Could not pay back in time
3
3
Seed is not always available
early in the season
0

0
0
0
0
0

10
Disease outbreaks
100
Households with other
Provide support for accessing
suggestions or
credit, provide training on lobster
recommendations to fisheries
diseases and their treatments,
authorities or management
institutions to help improve your help reduce interest rates when
farmers lose their crops,
grow-out operations
improve access to training in
lobster culture techniques, ban
trawl net fishing activity

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Aquaculture Research r 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Aquaculture Research, 41, e634^e642

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Bioeconomics of lobster farming inVietnam E H Petersen & T H Phuong

obtain credit through middlepersonsat higher than


bank rates. Households also reported access to and
cost of good-quality feed to be a constraining factor,
especially during the wet or the monsoon season.
A fourth issue reported by farmers was access to
good information about technology improvements
in lobster farming. Respondents indicated that it is
generally dicult to access this information, especially documentation. Managing disease outbreaks
was reported to be an important technical issue for
some farmers for which they have insucient information.
The predominant issues that farmers wished to
raise with sheries authorities or management institutions included a desire for credit support, stronger
technical support (especially to help manage disease
and to improve culture techniques) and to ban trawl
net shing (due to sh stock damage).

Discussion and conclusion


Culture-based grow-out of tropical spiny lobster is a
unique and nascent industry. It faces a number of
challenges such as reducing dependency on wild
stocks for puerulus and food, and the management
and treatment of disease. It also has signicant market potential with high export prices and unmet export demand (Hart 2009; Vietnam Association of
Seafood Exporters and Producers 2009).
This paper presents bioeconomic data on lobster
farming in Vietnam, and perceived constraints to the
development of the industry. Data are generated
through a face-to-face survey of 40 lobster grow-out
farmers in central Vietnam conducted in early 2009.
The farmers were found to be protable with an average BCR of1.44 and an average net revenue of 262 millionVND year  1 (or just under US$15000 year  1).
This is relatively high compared with other seafood
farming enterprises in the region [for example, the
BCR of mud crab and tilapia farming in the region
was found to be 1.36 and 1.09 respectively (Petersen
2009)]. It is moderate to high compared with other
small-scale aquaculture enterprises internationally
(for example, the BCR of silver perch farming in Australia is 1.2^1.3 (Guy, Johnston & Cacho 2009), for
pearl farming in India, it is approximately 1.2 (Rao &
Kumar 2008), and for various aquaculture species in
India, it is between 1.22 and 1.86 (Katiha, Jena, Pillai,
Chakraborty & Dey 2005). However, investment in the
enterprise is also high compared with other enterprises in the region. For example, the total costs for lob-

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Aquaculture Research, 2010, 41, e634^e642

ster are 598 millionVND year  1 compared with mud


crab and tilapia farming in the region at 37 and 42 million VND year  1) (Petersen 2009). Moreover, disease
has the potential to devastate lobster crops and there
is little information available to lobster farmers about
disease prevention and management. Hence, the lobster enterprise is a high-risk high-return industry.
Lobster farmers use water resources that are freely
available to anyone within certain geographical
boundaries. As such, these resources, while free, cannot be mortgaged for use as collateral for borrowing
funds. Despite diculties in using land or water resources as collateral, approximately 53% of surveyed
lobster households borrow credit, averaging 119 millionVND crop  1 or 15% of the total costs. While this
is approximately 10 times the amount borrowed by
mud crab and tilapia farmers in the region, it comprises a third of the percentage of the total costs (ie.
mud crab and tilapia farmers borrow approximately
40% of the total costs, compared with15% for lobster
farmers) (Petersen 2009). Twenty-eight per cent of
the surveyed lobster farmers stated that access to
credit is a signicant constraint to the development
of their enterprises.
The lobster production cycle is on average 18
months, which is relatively long compared with other
seafood enterprises (mud crab and tilapia production
cycles are approximately 5 months each). Stocking
occurs year round, with stocking rates decreasing
throughout the production cycle ^ starting at approximately 85 lobsters m  2 and nishing at approximately 1.58 lobster m  2. Lobsters are rst
stocked at approximately1.2 cm (often called the nursery phase) and are harvested at approximately
25 cm or 950 g. Stocking biomass is approximately
54 kg crop  1 and harvest biomass is approximately
1617 kg crop  1, with an average mortality of approximately 43%.
The harvest price of a market-sized lobster is
798 000 VND kg  1 (equivalent to 45 USD kg  1),
which is higher than other species in the region (for
example, the harvest prices of mud crab and tilapia
are 87 000 and 15000 VND kg  1 respectively).
The dominant cost sources for these farms are feed
(61% of costs) and seed (22%). All other costs contribute o10% each. This includes labour, which generally consists totally of household labour of
approximately 1.8 person-years crop  1. In this bioeconomic analysis, household labour is costed at
hired labour rates with the assumption that the
household worker could nd alternative employment
at the same cost if they were not working on the lob-

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Aquaculture Research r 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Aquaculture Research, 41, e634^e642

Aquaculture Research, 2010, 41, e634^e642

Bioeconomics of lobster farming inVietnam E H Petersen & T H Phuong

ster operation. The protability of the enterprise


would increase if this household labour was not valued at commercial rates.
The average feed cost decreases as the lobster
grows, with the feed constituent being dominated by
small shrimp and swimming crabs during the nursery phase, with increasing proportions of low-value
n-sh and shell-sh for the older lobsters. Pellets
were not used by any lobster households. It was
found that farmers perceive that the lobsters do not
adapt easily to manufactured diets (pellets), and that
manufactured diets are generally more expensive
and lead to slower growth rates than traditional
diets.
Research has shown that lobsters will be adaptable
to manufactured diets (Smith, Irvin & Mann 2009)
and, although more expensive, these diets are likely
to lead to signicantly higher growth rates (Irvin &
Williams 2009). In fact, Petersen and Phuong (in
press) assume that forthcoming manufactured diets
will cost approximately 30 000 VND kg  1 and have
feed conversion ratios of approximately 3 (compared
with that of current diets of approximately
11000 VND kg  1 and 30 respectively), and found
that the net benet to farmers of these diets is approximately 267 million VND or 100% of the net revenue. Moreover, it is likely that manufactured feeds
will have additional environmental and disease prevention benets. Signicant eort will be needed to
negate some farmer perceptions when introducing
formulated diets to the industry.
The predominant perceived constraints to the development of lobster operations include seasonal/climate/weather constraints (high water temperatures
and water quality issues), insucient access to credit,
access to good-quality aordable feed and access to
good information about technology improvements
in lobster farming. These are constraints faced by
many small-scale aquaculture industries worldwide
and are not unique to lobster farming in Vietnam.
For example, Szuster, Chalermwat, Flaherty and Intacharoen (2008) and Nabi (2008) cite water quality issues as the leading management constraints to the
development of oyster industry in Thailand and ricesh farming in Bangladesh respectively. High feed
costs are reported as a major constraint to silver
perch industry growth in Australia (Guy et al. 2009)
and to prawn farming in Bangladesh (Ahmed, Brown
& Muir 2008). Diculties in accessing seed and lack
of technical knowledge of farmers are constraints to
prawn farming in Bangladesh (Ahmed et al. 2008)
and rice-sh farming in Bangladesh (Nabi 2008).

It seems that improving the livelihood of lobster


farmers inVietnam is dependent on reducing their dependence on wild stocks for seed and feed, improving
access to credit and improving information ows. Improved access to technical information will allow improved grow-out practices (especially improved
management of seasonal conditions and prevention
and treatment of diseases). Improved market information ows are likely to reduce the variability of input
and output prices. Improved practices and reduced
variability of prices are likely to reduce the overall riskiness of these enterprises, allowing improved access
to credit. Such improvements are likely to lead to
higher protability, given high export demand and
hence sustained high prices for their lobster product.

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