Persistence pays off for soft-shell crab farmer

Poliana Ronnie Sidom

SANDAKAN: The sought-after soft-shell crab is one of the most difficult marine creatures to farm.

Suhaili Abdul Rahman, one of the district’s main suppliers, said a lot of persistence was required as it took 17 to 29 days to stimulate mangrove crabs to moult and produce new shells.

The 38-year-old father of three said the crabs had to be collected within two hours before their new shells hardened.

The crabs could also be eaten by other crabs or fish, he added, while their shells were still soft.

“The cages need to be cleaned all the time. If there is a lot of moss, it will slow down the molting process. Debris also needs to be cleared to allow oxygen to enter the cages,” he said.


Suhaili Abdul Rahman, one of the district’s main suppliers, said a lot of persistence was required as it took 17 to 29 days to stimulate mangrove crabs to moult and produce new shells. Photo credit: Poliana Ronnie Sidom

Suhaili said the El Nino season between July and September was a high-risk period as the crabs would be exposed to hot weather.

He said he almost gave up when all his crabs died due to heat four years ago.

“People say just because you failed once doesn’t mean you will fail forever. So, I continued to breed crabs until I received assistance from the Fisheries Department last year. I was also included in the exemplary aquaculture farmer programme,” he said.

Suhaili said he began farming soft-shell crabs with a startup capital of just RM700 in Kampung Bambangan, about 30km away from here, in 2013.


Suhaili Abdul Rahman, one of the district’s main suppliers, said a lot of persistence was required as it took 17 to 29 days to stimulate mangrove crabs to moult and produce new shells. Photo credit: Poliana Ronnie Sidom

He said he had visited his friends’ farms to learn about the business before starting his venture.

Now, he produces 250kg to 250kg of the seafood and makes a monthly gross income of between RM7,000 and RM8,000.

“Many of my friends have moved out of the village to work elsewhere. When I see my cages getting bigger, I think my decision to stay on and breed crabs in the village was the right choice.”

Suhaili is expected to receive a state-level award in Tawau next month.

He is also exploring fish and shrimp farming. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd