The exports represent Thailand's first foray into the organic shrimp market, a fairly new product even for health-conscious European customers.
The shipment also marked a new beginning for Thailand's shrimp industry, which has an environmentally dirty past.
Sureerath Farm in Laem Sing district of Chanthaburi province, 220 kilometres east of Bangkok, is the first and still only Thai farm to receive certification from Naturland, an association of organic farmers in Germany, for meeting standards for raising shrimp and ensuring product quality. The certification paved the way for Sureerath to secure orders this year from Switzerland's Co-op retailer and Germany's Deutsche See, an organic sea food distributor.
Sureerath Farm president Prayoon Hongrat is one of Thailand's pioneers of organic shrimp farming.
"I make money off people buying my shrimp, but it's not necessary for me to make more money by selling them unhealthy shrimp," Prayoon said. "That's bad karma."
Prayoon, 60, has been in shrimp farming for the past 22 years and has seen a good deal of bad karma business practices.
"When I first raised shrimp, we didn't use chemicals because back then, the environment was still good, but after a few years, the pollution got worse and the shrimps got sick, so we used chemicals," Prayoon said.
Prayoon started experimenting with organic feed meal and environmentally sustainable practices on his 224-hectare shrimp farm, partly to improve his karma, the Buddhist belief that one's actions affect one's destiny, but also to improve his product.
"By not using chemicals, the shrimp are healthier and their immune systems can fight diseases," Prayoon said. "Before, my shrimps died, and I lost a lot of money."
Five years ago, Sureerath Farm went completely organic, refusing to use any chemical-based feed meal or medicine in its ponds, lowering the density of its shrimp stock and installing wastewater recycling that avoids environmental damage.
The sustainable practices cost about 30 per cent more than conventional shrimp farming, Prayoon said.
Commercial shrimp farming took off in Thailand in the mid-1980s, driven by a global appetite for the tasty crustaceans. Europe imports an estimated 600,000 tonnes of shrimp annually while the United States imports about 500,000 tonnes and Japan 250,000 tons.
In Thailand, where 85 per cent of all farmed shrimp are exported, the explosion in commercial shrimp farming led to widespread destruction of coastal mangroves and, swiftly thereafter, rapid land degradation as shrimp ponds fell victim to disease and pollution.
An estimated 32,000 hectares - or 37 per cent of the total land in Thailand used for shrimp faming - has been abandoned because of degradation and contamination.
Europe removed Thai shrimp imports from its list of products that receive favourable tariff treatment in 2002-03 when it was discovered that farmers were using antibiotics in shrimp ponds to lower the risk of disease outbreaks.
But it was restored to the list in 2005 as an EU gesture of moral support for the country in the wake of the December 26, 2004, tsunami.
For German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the German government's development agency, the return of Thai shrimp to the list was an opportunity to help boost Thai shrimp farmers' competitiveness in the European market by focusing on niche sectors that could fetch premium prices, such as organic shrimp, said Jim Tomecko, a director of GTZ's Thai-German programme for enterprise competitiveness.
GTZ played a role in helping Sureerath Farm meet Naturland standards and hooking it up with retailers in Europe to import its organic shrimp.
"If you've got a certification system telling you that the farm is up to international standards, it makes it much more attractive for the European retailers to say, 'OK, I'll go along with it,'" Tomecko said.
The challenge now is to boost organic shrimp production, something Prayoon said he would try to do next year by setting up an alliance of small shrimp farmers in Chanthaburi and praying the market for organic products isn't wiped out by the global economic crisis.
"I don't think the organic food market will get smaller," Prayoon said. "People who want to eat organic food are more worried about their health than the higher prices they pay."