The first time residents of Northern Philippines heard the name vannamae (others spell it as vannamei), most thought it was a lady's name or even the name of a popular rock band.
For the equally curious, vannamae is a shrimp. It has the scientific name of Pacific whiteleg shrimp, Pandeus vannamae, actually.
It is the same specie which can bring tourism prestige to the fast-emerging eco-tourism haven of Sta. Teresita, Cagayan. Plans are on the drawing board as to how the specie can likewise promote the municipality.
Three years ago in Barangay Caniugan, DATAJ Farms was established in a 50-hectare land converted into vannamae culture and production.
Big by any vannamae farm standard, DATAJ uses Thai technology in their 32 ponds which recorded an estimated total harvest November last year of 3.4 tons per day. The farm gate price a kilo is pegged at P250.
Jun, a Visayan and who oversees the operation of the farm said buyers from Manila who usually get their vannamae supply from Pampanga, Bataan, and elsewhere have started to fall in line at the farm to take a slice from DATAJ harvest.
We already conducted initial talk with the owner of the farm. We want to conduct farm tours as part of our townâ€™s new role as an eco-tourism area, Mayor Lolita Garcia said.
Fishsite said the commercial culture of the specie begun in South and Central America. Its development of intensive breeding and rearing techniques led to its culture in Hawaii, mainland USA, Central and South America.
But while there have a phenomenal increase in its production, many countries in Asia are reluctant. The culture of vannamae was banned in the Philippines for so many years but was illegally cultured here not until the lifting of the ban that fishermen showed a renewed interest in the commodity.
In 2007, Intrafish said the shrimp aquaculture industry in the country was already preparing to convert the majority of its former tiger prawn industry to white prawn culture.
Marine biologists in the country reported that the Philippines is a late comer in vannamae farming. They claimed that after the ban was lifted in the same year, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) conducted experimental feeding.
In 2008, BFAR's Wesley Rosario said, the country has accredited seven hatcheries and 33 farms with a current production then of five to seven metric tons.
Vannamae fish farmers are the big players in the industry, Rosario told the Inquirer.
Vannamae, for all its worth, is now considered the newfound star of the local fish sector, FishSite said.
Fish growers acknowledge that the culture was more profitable than other species, it said.
With the renewed interest in vannamae and with the presence of DATAJ in Sta. Teresita, chances are, other fishers will follow.
When that happens, it will be the gain of the local government, not only in terms of revenues but likewise in terms of tourism prestige.
After all, Director Blessida Diwa already pre-empted to name the town as Vannamae capital of the Philippines. (Benjie S. De Yro-PIA 2, Cagayan)