SCIENCE CITY, MUNOZ, NUEVA ECIJA, OCTOBER 31, 2003 (STAR) By Rose De La Cruz - After three years of successfully propagating "ulang," a new inland fishery product that has a huge market in first class restaurants and five star hotels locally and in Thailand, in its hatchery in the Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) formally launched the product in a festival held last Monday at the Ninoy Aquino Parks in Quezon City that coincided with the World Food Day celebration.

Leading visitors in the ulang festival were Agriculture Undersecretary for Livestock and Fisheries Cesar Drilon, Ma. Elena Yulo-Lorenzo, BFAR Director Malcolm Sarmiento Jr., fisheries regional officials, growers and fishfarmer organizations, who all feasted on different ulang recipes foremost of which was the stuffed (rellenong) ulang.

Ulang rosenbergii giant freshwater shrimp (sc. Macrobrachium rosenbergii) is considered the world’s largest freshwater shrimp with a relatively large head. It has a pair of conspicuously elongated leg with claws and has bright blue to rich yellow with brown striped colored shells. It could grow to over a foot long, reaching 13 inches and weighing over a pound.

At the festival, the largest ulang raised in the Philippines which got an award from BFAR came from Pangil Bay measuring 30 centimeters and weighing 336 grams.

Sarmiento said the BFAR has achieved significant strides in ulang propagation in its Muñoz hatchery from a production of less than 500,000 tons two years ago to 1.5 million metric tons this year.

Ulang can be found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Indo Pacific region including Malaysia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, Fiji, Vietnam, Philippines, New Guinea and Northern Australia. They inhabit fresh water and brackishwater, sometimes even in marine environment.

In the Philippines, this shrimp is abundant in the rivers, lakes and other tributaries of the whole archipelago. In Ilocos, Cagayan and other parts of Northern Luzon it is called udang; in Pangasinan it is called kising-kissing; paje in Palawan and Zamboanga, padao in Cotabato, kalig (big) and urang (small) in Leyte, budsang in Bicol and ulang in most parts of the country including Bulacan, Laguna, Zambales and Bicol.

Elsewhere in the world, it takes names like bouquet geant (France), camaron gigante (Spain), bharo chingri (Bangladesh), felsengarnele (Germany), onitenagaebi (Japan), koong yai (Thailand) and giant freshwater shrimp or giant freshwater prawn in the US.

Sarmiento said compared with its relative, the giant prawn or sugpo, ulang propagation is relatively simple and low cost which is why BFAR "wasted no time to develop this freshwater shrimp that is indigenous to the country."

It started breeding ulang in captivity and established its hatchery protocol in the 1990s. Various schemes were done to introduce the species to stakeholders like dispersal programs, establishment of demo sites for its culture, farmer-cooperator schemes, hands-on training and others.

To date, many rice farmers have adopted ulang in the rice-ulang integrated farming system (which began in 2001) while others ventured into commercial production like Engr. Luis T. Lina, owner of MBL Farms. Lina’s experience in commercially growing ulang showed that profits can range from P10,000 per 5,000 sq.m. (of 5,000 pieces) or 63 percent return on investment to as high as P131,571 for 80,000 sq.m. at 80,000 pieces or an ROI of 74 percent.

Frozen ulang are exported in all major consuming countries, principally the US and European Union, where its large size and comparatively low price makes it a popular item.

Defrosted, it resembles a giant tiger prawn but bigger, chunkier, lighter in color and their shells are always on.

Whole ulang are regarded as specialty item and are often sold live for display in aquarium tanks.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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