LEGAZPI CITY — With its eyes glued on the international market, the mud crab industry in the Bicol island-province of Catanduanes is getting a big boost from the provincial government and various national government agencies.
“We are looking at the five biggest crab-consuming countries—China, USA, Japan, Korea and Thailand. Cornering just a portion of the international market, especially during the winter season, when these countries experience considerable drop in the supply of crabs would be a big lift to our industry,” Gov. Araceli Wong said in a statement reaching here Sunday.
All the province needs is the participation of all stakeholders, including the private sector in the provincial government’s efforts to maximize the development of the industry towards the production of more export-quality products, she stressed.
So far, the governor said the local crab industry is enjoying the support of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Catanduanes State University (CSU).
The provincial government, for its part, is maintaining the Catanduanes Crab Center (CCC) which serves as the source of crablets for grow-out and fattening by fishpond operators.
It carries out a special program for “queen” or “gravid” crabs designed to ensure the sustainability of the industry in the province which originally owned the “Crab Capital of the Philippines” title it lost to Negros about three decades ago.
Since the start of its operations way back in 2007, the CCC, according to Wong, has not only addressed the rampant poaching and illegal transport of crablets out of the island but also standardize the operations of the crab nursery and the culture of crab larvae to crablet sizes for local grow-out production.
The CCC, with its nursery in Barangay Palnab of Virac — the provincial capital, now serves as “bagsakan” or buying station for crablets gathered by residents from all over the province, mostly from the municipalities of the crab-rich Bagamanoc, Panganiban and Viga towns.
“We see to it now that all crablets gathered from all our producing areas go to the CCC. The provincial government buys these crablets at prices higher than those offered by unscrupulous traders illegally exporting them outside the province,” Wong said.
With this, the province is now in control of the flow of crablets out of the island, giving local crab growers all the opportunities to engage not only in fattening but also in raising high-quality crablets for the provincial government that facilitates its marketing to other provinces or regions.
The operations of CCC is handled by the Provincial Agricultural Services Office (PASO) and guided by the Crab Center Executive Board (CCEB) now headed by CSU president Dr. Minerva Morales.
“With a crab center equipped with structures and facilities and manned by trained technical personnel, what the industry needs now is more support and deeper commitment from all stakeholders to continue growing mud crabs in our province in order for us to be competitive in the international market,” Wong said.
She said the province’s crab industry is focusing on the production of female crabs that play an important role in marketing, particularly in Asian countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
The BFAR, Wong said, has been helping the industry with technical inputs through its crustacean fishery program that addresses the steadily declining volume and size of crab production in the country due to serious depletion of the breeding stock as a result of unregulated fishing and irresponsible methods.
The BFAR program also involves the monitor and evaluation of the current state of the crab industry in Bicol which, from 2009 to 2011, gave the region a total catch of about 15,000 metric tons to place second to top producer Western Visayas’ that yielded 19,304 metric tons during the same period.
The DENR on the other hand provides guidelines in identifying areas suitable to mud crab culture while DOLE has provided fund grant to the crab center as part of a joint undertaking with the province of creating more jobs out of the local crab industry.
The DOLE has earlier given the provincial government Php120,000 which was used in the purchase of equipment now being used in the modernization of the crab production facility.
For its part, the DOST has its crab fattening program in the province being implemented with the Pagkasararo Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Inc. in Barangay Cabuyoan, Panganiban town.
The program facilitates the transfer of technology on the method and techniques in crab management and feeding, crab cage construction and efficient handling and packaging of fattened crabs for marketing.
Crabs produced under this technology command higher prices, Wong said.
As part of the provincial government’s efforts to encouraged stakeholders in the local crab industry to support its development into a dollar-earning venture, a forum was recently conducted at the provincial Capitol where various issues affecting the industry were discussed.
Among these issues were problems and constraints in crab culture, post-harvest and marketing; technologies and best practices in crab production; ecological imperatives for a sustainable mudcrab industry; post-harvest value-adding, product development and packaging of industry opportunities; and perspective on the global supply and demand of crabs, Wong said.
The forum coordinated by Morales as its technical consultant was jointly sponsored by the provincial government, BFAR, CSU, DOST and DENR, she added.