ILOILO CITY  — There is a chance for the Philippines to become the world’s largest producer of mud crabs, an emerging commodity in the domestic and export market, if the remaining gaps in the production aspect will be addressed with appropriate intervention.

“The Philippines is second only to China in terms of volume that’s why there is much potential to this export commodity,” said Dr. Dalisay Fernandez of the Inland Aquatic Research and Development of Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).

Mud crab production in the Philippines stands at 16,000 metric tons, mostly coming from the sea. The population in the wild, however, has been declining.

In 2012, Dalisay said that the production was valued at around 100 million dollars.

However, with the available technology that was developed by researchers from the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center-Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC-AQD) in collaboration with the University of the Philippines in the Visayas (UPV) and funded by PCAARRD it is expected that the production will be boosted.

“The chance of increasing the production is very high so people will not be collecting crablets from their natural environment. To compensate for that we have to provide the seeds from the hatchery,” said Dr. Felix Ayson, chief of SEAFDEC.

Hatcheries with an 80-ton capacity developed by SEAFDEC and UPV can produce around 90,000 crablets per run with 46 runs per year, said Dr. Fe Estepa, also of SEAFDEC AQD.

Dalisay added that they are now ready to roll out technologies that were developed to include production of hatchery-reared juveniles for soft shell crab farming, commercial production of pathogen-free marine worms (polychaetes) for broodstock diet, techniques to reduce cannibalism, development of suitable diets, immunostimulants and microbial compounds to mitigate diseases.

Secretary Mario Montejo of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) during Monday’s kickoff of the three-day national mud crab congress here underscored that a prototype hatchery is already operational and turned over to the local government of Guindulman, Bohol.

The prototype hatchery can produce 40,000 crabs in one run.

“We expect other demonstration hatcheries set up strategically in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to build up the momentum towards making the mud crab industry one of the pillars of Philippine aquaculture,” he stressed.

The congress that officially culminates today, Wednesday, with a tour of the various facilities of SEAFDEC and UPV anchors on the theme ““Philippines: In the forefront of the mud crab industry development.” PNA