Depleting geragau shrimp supply forcing a halt in Melaka belacan production

MELAKA : Belacan or prawn paste is an important ingredient in asam pedas dishes or to make kangkong goreng belacan, that without it, the taste will not be the same.

The fear now is that production of prawn paste, especially the ones from Melaka, which is well known, including in Singapore and Brunei, will come to a halt due to the depletion of the geragau shrimps, which is used to make the paste.

Problems getting the supply of the geragau shrimp are forcing many belacan makers in Melaka to venture into other business.

However, Mohd Azmi Doraman, 42, who manages the shrimp paste business under the brand name Belacan Maklong Tanjung, is still trying to keep this traditional business alive.

He said the sea reclamation work, which has been going on for almost 20 years ago is the main reason for the depletion of the geragau shrimp.

Workers drying belacan (shrimp paste) under the hot sun. — Picture by KE Ooi
Workers drying belacan (shrimp paste) under the hot sun. — Picture by KE Ooi

“Honestly, the situation is becoming more critical. In the past, I could get 200 tonnes of geragau shrimps from my suppliers. The amount is for production of the belacan for three months, but now, I’m getting only 10 to 15 tonnes.

“The supply of geragau shrimp in Melaka has dropped by 90 to 95 per cent and it is said to be because of the natural habitat of the marine life having been disturbed,” he said when met by Bernama in Bachang here.

Azmi, who inherited the business from his family, said he had to compete with commercial belacan operators to obtaining his supply of the geragau shrimps from outside Melaka such as Kuala Selangor and Kuala Perlis and also from the Philippines and Indonesia.

“The price is also high, which can reach up to RM10 per kilogramme and because of that many of the small entrepreneurs have to close down their belacan-making business,” he said, adding that the depletion of the marine resources not only impacted the belacan makers, but also the fishermen.

He said only two items are needed to make the belacan and what makes the belacan from Melaka different from those produced in other states, is in its colour.

The belacan from Melaka is pinker, he said, adding that he has 200 agents nationwide.


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