Subrata Kumar Sarkar of MU Sea Foods Ltd, a prawn processing farm that has tested a variety called vannamei, said king prawns can tolerate changes in salinity and have good export potential.
“We are planning to increase our vannamei cultivation and the government should encourage its cultivation,” he said.
Other farmers are trying ways to supplement their shrimp business, including making crab-fat.
Lightcastle’s Ali said mud crabs are more resistant to climatic stresses such as salinity and temperature variation.
Farmers capture young crabs and artificially fatten them by feeding them a carefully managed diet in cages or pens.
Yet while there is some potential in the crab sector, it cannot become a substitute for shrimp production as local demand for crabs is very low and exports are limited, said Rahman of CEGIS.
Without hatcheries, farmers rely on catching wild crabs from near the Sundarbans, which threatens to deplete their stocks.
Experts said such experiments are unlikely to improve the situation for communities unless decision-makers pay more attention to policy making for farmers on the ground.
Ali said farmers lack power in a fragmented shrimp value chain dominated by middlemen and often cannot make their voices heard despite being among the most affected by disasters and disease.
“The livelihood and welfare of farmers should be at the forefront of the priorities of policy-makers,” he said.
($1 = 101.9600 Taka)