Value chain assessment Report of mud crab in Bangladesh

This report presents the findings and recommendations from an assessment of mud crab value chain in Bangladesh, conducted as part of the "Promotion of Sustainable Crab Farming in the South-West Region of Bangladesh" project, which has been funded by Feed the Future Bangladesh Aquaculture and Nutrition Activity, WorldFish, and is being implemented by Nowabenki Gonomukhi Foundation (NGF) in five coastal districts: Shyamnagar, Koyra, Bagerhat, Bhola, and Cox's Bazar. The objective of this assignment was to evaluate the current value chain of mud crab in Bangladesh, recommend actions to support it, and identify areas for intervention to increase production and export performance. The assignment was carried out for a total of 24 man-days and involved visiting five coastal districts. Various rapid appraisal techniques were used to collect and/or verify information from different sources. Essentially, information was collected through focus group discussions, key informant interviews using checklists, consultation with hatchery managers and technicians, site observation and critical appraisal of an extensive list of secondary literatures. Information collected through these methods was validated by direct interviews involving some crab farmers. The report provides an overview of the mud crab industry in Bangladesh, including wild harvesting and farming practices. It also discusses the value chain of mud crab production in Bangladesh and identifies key actors and processes involved in mud crab production and distribution. The report concludes with a set of recommendations for the sustainable development of the crab industry in Bangladesh. Mud crab production in Bangladesh involves both wild harvesting and farming using various methods. In the southwest coastal districts, harvesting primarily takes place in and around the Sundarbans, while crab collectors in the southeast region focus on the estuaries of the Bay of Bengal. Based on stakeholder consultations, it was found that crab harvesting from the forest are significantly higher during the monsoon season compared to other seasons. The wild harvest includes adult, juvenile, underweight, soft-shell crabs, and mature females with empty gonads, which do not meet the export standards and are used for farming. There are three distinct practices for crab farming: fattening, grow-out and soft-shell production. Fattening is the primary practice, followed by grow-out culture and the emerging trend of soft-shell crab production.

The study reveals that one of the main challenges of the mud crab industry is the unsustainable harvesting of seed stock from the wild. The report discusses how the current level of seed stock harvesting from the wild is not sustainable and might lead to depletion of the resource, threatening the livelihoods of a large number of coastal people. Successful hatchery production at a commercial scale would reduce the pressure on wild stock and increase the availability of seed stock to serve a growing demand. This would lead to higher and uninterrupted production and improved livelihoods for those involved in the value chain, especially the producers. The report also mentions that there have been attempts to produce crablets through captive breeding in Satkhira by NGF since 2015, with gradual increase in berried production over the years. Despite promising results, efforts should be continued to increase survivability at Zoea-V stage in hatcheries so as to ensure commercial viability. Apart from lack of skilled hatchery technicians, major problems encountered by NGF staffs include sourcing of berried female crab and sea water, water quality maintenance, development of natural and artificial diets for crab seeds, prevention of fungal and protozoan pathogens and high rate of mortality during larval transformation from zoea-V to megalopa stages. Another challenge is the lack of a structured marketing system for mud crabs, with many intermediaries making it a complex system for crab farmers to navigate. Various actors such as wild collectors, farmers, traders, processors, and exporters are involved in the crab value chain. Farias play a crucial role in the local crab value chain, while small depots collect crabs from collectors, farmers, and farias and send them to larger depots. These larger depots act as intermediaries between the local market and exporters in Dhaka. However, it's important to note that the crab value chain is not a linear process. Actors can have multiple roles within the marketing chain, and products often move laterally in both directions. Interestingly, field studies revealed that some large depot owners purchase large quantities of crabs during October and November and store them in ponds. They do this in anticipation of high market prices due to the significant demand during the New Year period in international markets. Besides, the mud crab industry in Bangladesh faces a host of other challenges that hinder its growth and profitability including environmental issues such as ecosystem degradation, limited investment, high production costs, and lack of integration within the value chain. At a larger scale, there are challenges related to policies regarding cooperation among government agencies for crab harvesting, conservation measures, market diversification, infrastructure development, and fiscal incentives for private sector involvement. Improving mud crab hatchery technology alone could address some of these issues and lead to resolving others.

Another important challenge is the lack of reliable and consistent data on mud crab production, trade, and stock status that hinders effective planning, management, and policy making for the industry. Despite these challenges, collaboration among stakeholders and government support can create opportunities for expansion through policy measures that promote innovation, value-added processing, and provide financial and technical assistance to farmers. The recommendations presented below are based on a comprehensive analysis of existing literatures and the findings of the current study:

 Conduct comprehensive stock assessment of mud crab using traditional catch composition studies and modern molecular biotechnology tools.

 Continue research and development efforts to refine and scale up the hatchery protocols for mud crab farming.

 Develop formulated feeds of mud crabs is essential not only for addressing biodiversity concerns but also to reduce the pressure on tilapia and other wild resources that are increasingly being used for human consumption.

 Using standardized methods and indicators, regular and comprehensive surveys of mud crab resources, both wild and cultured, should be conducted.

 Promote adoption of improved management practices and biosecurity measures among mud crab farmers to mitigate high mortality rates caused by diseases, predators, cannibalism, handling stress, and environmental changes.

 A national database and information system for mud crab industry that integrates data from various sources, such as government agencies, research institutions, private sector, and NGOs, should be established. This would enable data sharing, analysis, and dissemination among relevant stakeholders, as well as to support evidence-based decision making and policy formulation for the industry.

 Studies should be undertaken to determine the domestic consumption trend and pattern and appropriate promotion measures should be taken. Domestic market among the urbanites could act as a cushion against international market price volatility. Piloting an initiative to establish a mobile app and/or web-based e-marketing system for both domestic and international markets should be carried out.