The export of frozen shrimp from Bangladesh has fallen by 10,000 tonnes in the last five years.
Bangladesh exported 50,333 tonnes of frozen shrimp in the 2012-13 fiscal year, but this came down to 39,706 tonnes in the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to the data of the Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association.
Industry insiders say infrastructure weakness, fluctuations in the price of shrimp in the international market, and the closure of a good number of processing plants contributed to the decline in exports over the years.
Moreover, the inability of Bangladeshi shrimp to compete against low-priced vannamei shrimp is another reason for the fall in export. Vannamei shrimp, grown in most Asian countries except Bangladesh and some Latin American countries, dominates the world market because of its low price.
Exporters and shrimp farmers said it will be difficult for the shrimp industry, known as "white gold", to survive without government patronage.
At present, 1,46,97,000 people in the country are directly or indirectly involved in shrimp farming, its trade, processing and export, said Molla Sumsur Rahman, president of the Fish Farm Owners Association of Bangladesh.
The fall in shrimp export will cost them heavily, he added.
There are about 40 shrimp processing plants across the country including Khulna. Of them, only 10 to 12 have been exporting shrimp regularly, said industry insiders.
The remaining ones are irregular in exporting shrimp because of a shortage of funds, they added.
However, an official of the Fish Inspection and Quality Control office in Khulna said the export of shrimp may have fallen because of a shortfall in production.
Infrastructure weakness, lack of adequate training, inefficient feed management, among others, are to blame for the decrease in shrimp production, he added.
Fish farmer Monirul Islam Kazi said shrimp farmers were seriously affected by adverse weather in the last season (2017-18).
He added that a fall in water level in fish enclosures, virus infections and an increase in temperature and farming costs have forced many farmers to leave the profession.
It is not possible for farmers to stick to the profession without government patronage, he added.
S Humayun Kabir, former director of the Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association, said there is a target of earning $1.5 billion from shrimp export by 2021.
But it is not possible to achieve the target because of various adverse situations, he said.
He added that the quality and taste of Bangladeshi shrimp is good, but the price is high. As a result, buyers from around the world are going for the lower priced product. Vannamei shrimp have gradually been taking over more and more of the market that used to belong to Bangladeshi shrimp.
S Humayun Kabir said, "Last year the government allowed the farming of vannamei shrimp, but no farmer has started cultivating it yet."
"Now we cannot be optimistic about the shrimp industry without government assistance," he added.