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Shrimp trade, marketing and economics


Current world shrimp culture production levels are shown in Tables 1 and 3 and Figure 1 and are updated regularly at the FAO Fishstat database8.


White shrimp, such as P. vannamei and P. stylirostris, are the preferred species for consumption for the world's largest shrimp market - the United States of America. Additionally, from the United States of America consumers' point of view, they can be mixed together and sold as western white shrimp (Rosenberry, 2002). Consumers in the United States of America appear to prefer the taste of P. vannamei over P. monodon (Rosenberry, 2002), particularly from freshwater production (UF/IFAS, 2003).

There is also a strong demand for P. vannamei in the local markets of Mainland China and Taiwan Province of China (where 75 percent and 100 percent, respectively, of their production is sold locally) and Thailand (Peterson, 2002). However, many Asian countries have no experience with P. vannamei and P. stylirostris and processing plants are often reluctant to accept this species until they have found established markets for this product.

Another advantage is that P. vannamei have a higher meat yield at 66–68 percent than P. monodon at 62 percent.

The ability to close the life cycle of P. vannamei and P. stylirostris, as well as their ability to be reared in closed, low-salinity systems, might also be seen as a marketing advantage, particularly for the image-conscious European market, which is being consumer-led to search for more environmentally friendly products.


United States shrimp market

United States of America has been the major market for farmed shrimp over the past few years, and the market condition in the United States of America is now the predominant factor affecting international market prices. Shrimp is the number one seafood consumed in the United States of America, with per capita consumption increasing from 1.3 kg in 2000 to 1.6 kg in 2001. Imports have now reached 430 000 tonnes/year, worth US$3.4 thousand million, and are increasing at 7 percent/year (Tables 8 and 9 and Figure 3). Imported shrimp accounted for 88 percent of the demand, with local production only able to meet 12 percent of that demand (Globefish Web site9, NMFS Web site10).

The United States of America market share between Latin America and Asia was 67 percent from Asia and 33 percent from Latin America in 2002 which is a significant increase for Asia in recent years (56 percent from Asia and 44 percent from Latin America in 1999) (Globefish Web site; NMFS Web site).

Despite problems with the United States of America economy, the market demand recovered somewhat in 2002 after a 40 percent decrease in retail prices following the September 2001 terrorist attack on New York, although in general prices have been declining steadily since 1997 (Figure 3). Early 2003 has shown slow demand due to continuing problems with the United States of America economy and war in the Middle East (Globefish Web site; NMFS Web site).

In the United States of America market, the major exporters in 2002 were Thailand, Mainland China, Viet Nam and India. Thailand lost some ground due to problems with the culture of P. monodon, while Mainland China increased dramatically due to the new production and export of P. vannamei. Other countries increasing their share included India, Ecuador and particularly Viet Nam and Brazil.

Importation of shrimp to the United States of America from all and selected countries (1994–2002)


Although Thailand lost some overall share, they increased exports of value added shrimp and are currently the major supplier of such shrimp to the United States market. Thailand exported 42 percent of its shrimp as processed product in 2001 and it is attempting to increase this towards 80 percent to increase diversity, value and maintain its lead in exports of processed shrimp. Thailand can expect to face greater competition in export markets from Mainland China, Viet Nam and India in the near future, however, as these countries continue to improve the quality of their processing industries (Globefish Web site; NMFS Web site; TFRC Web site11).

The huge importation of shrimp into the United States of America market, combined with falling prices, have recently led to accusations of dumping by the shrimp fisherfolk of the United States of America. In 2004, a group of fisherfolk and shrimp farmers (the Southern Shrimp Alliance) have brought an antidumping case to the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) aimed at reducing the quantity of shrimp imported by the United States of America and raising prices (The Wave Web site, July, 200311). This ongoing issue may result in the imposition of high tariffs on shrimp that are imported from the major producing countries in the world. For the Asian region (as of April 2004), this includes China, Viet Nam, Thailand and India. One of the effects of this type of action is that the market will seek to source shrimp from countries unaffected by the tariffs and there will inevitably be increased competition between the Asian exporters and greater uncertainty for producers. At the same time, there is renewed interest to revert to Black Tiger shrimp (P. monodon) production in order to access alternative markets. One of the possible positive aspects of this is that the increased awareness of the benefits of SPF/SPR shrimp may encourage renewed efforts to produce similar captive P. monodon broodstock. Currently, almost the entire P. monodon production industry is still based upon the capture of wild broodstock.

Average value (US$/kg) of shrimp imported into the United States of America (1994–2002)


Source: NMFS Web site;

Another problem for most shrimp producers is the well publicised EU restrictions related to the detection of banned antibiotic residues in shrimp and the United States of America which has also introduced much stricter controls over testing for these banned antibiotics (chloramphenicol and nitrofurans). With the introduction of technology capable of detecting 0.1 ppb levels of these substances, the testing for and enforcement of these levels on future shrimp imports will inevitably lead to problems for exporting countries.

Introduction of stricter testing has been facilitated by the development of more sophisticated analytical equipment, driven partially by consumer concerns over food safety. Additional import controls relate to the antidumping case by the United States of America shrimp fisherfolk and farmers, who claim that they are being put out of business through the importation of cheap farmed shrimp. A result of this is that product traceability from pond to plate is also becoming a greater priority.

Japanese market

The Japanese market took 80 percent of its shrimp imports from Asian countries (particularly Indonesia, Viet Nam and India) in 2002, compared to just 20 percent from Latin America. The rest of the world supplied shrimp derived mostly from capture fisheries from Russia, Greenland, Canada and Argentina, with very little from the domestic culture industries of Ecuador (1 700 tonnes) and Brazil (1 000 tonnes) (NMFS Web site) (Table 9).

European (EU) market

The European market has always been more particular than the United States of America or Japanese markets and, due to consumer pressure has recently become even more concerned about a range of issues. These include: sustainable and controlled farming, antibiotic regulation, ethical employment standards, traceability, genetically modified feed ingredients, fishmeal sustainability, animal welfare, genetics in shrimp breeding, dioxins, polychlorinated bi-phenyls (PCBs) heavy metals, agrochemicals and irradiation.

Importation of shrimp into the United States of America from all and selected countries (1994–2002) - (Source: NMFS Web site)

 All countriesThailandEcuadorChina
YearVolume (t)Value US$ millionValue (US$/kg)Volume (t)Value US$ millionValue (US$/kg)% USA marketVolume (t)Value US$ millionValue (US$/kg)% USA marketVolume (t)Value US$ millionValue (US$/kg)% USA market
1994284 8282 6689.3780 78998112.142848 1074559.461722 8541054.598
1995270 8912 5819.5377 79698112.612951 7584438.561914 644805.435
1996264 2072 4579.3072 71688812.212844 0873708.39177 746354.573
1997294 2072 95410.0473 40292112.552563 7385839.152212 879685.264
1998315 4423 1129.8792 2651 08811.792964 5485728.86206 996365.132
1999331 7063 1389.46114 5031 19710.453550 4134037.99158 846495.573
2000345 0773 75710.89126 4481 49811.853719 0971909.95618 2031377.505
2001400 3373 6279.06136 0781 2669.303426 7602248.37728 0171926.847
2002429 3033 4227.97115 1059768.482729 7151996.70749 5072986.0112

Importation of shrimp into the United States of America and Japan in 2002 (Source: NMFS Web site)

Imports into USAImports into Japan
CountryVolume (t)Value (US$ million)Value (US$/kg)%of marketCountryVolume (t)Value (US$ million)Value (US$/kg)% of market
All countries429 3033 4227.97100All countries248 8422 2008.84100
Thailand1151059768.4827Indonesia53 6075369.9922
China49 5072986.0112Viet Nam41 5163358.0817
Viet Nam44 68648110.7710India34 7943018.6614
India44 2453648.2210China19 5981387.048
Ecuador29 7151996.707Tailandia18 98619010.038
Mexico24 29726410.876Canada9 367495.224
Brazil17 733884.954Russia8 961697.704
Indonesia17 4371538.784Argentina8 833606.744
Others86 5785996.9220Others53 1805229.8121

A combination of these concerns (but particularly antibiotic residues) has led to recent restrictions on importation of farmed shrimp from many Asian countries (due to detection of chloramphenicol and nitrofuran metabolites) and from Ecuador (due to metabisulphite residues). The zero tolerance policy regarding chloramphenicol and nitrofuran has been particularly highlighted since improved detection capability within Europe has enabled previously undetectable levels of these two antibiotics to be found. The absence of technology and capacity to detect at these levels of sensitivity within the exporting countries has also led to disputes regarding the application of the more sensitive techniques and claims that this represents a technical barrier to trade.

In general, as economies around the world have slowed during recent years, and production (largely of P. vannamei) is rising, demand and hence prices have inevitably been decreasing.

As Ecuadorian and Latin American production of shrimp declined from 1999 due to the introduction of WSSV from Asia, Asian countries, particularly Mainland China, Thailand and Viet Nam, took advantage and increased their production dramatically. Although the United States of America imports are increasing slowly, these production increases (from 1 million tonnes in 1998 to 1.6 million tonnes in 2003) coincided with a cooling in demand from Japan and Europe; the decreasing Japanese market is due to its poor economic status.

In Europe, higher tariffs (and strict antibiotic testing) are limitations in accessing the market. For Thailand (in 1998) and soon after for Viet Nam (2003), the removal of preferential tariffs for the European market will result in advantages for India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and other countries with more favourable rates. This would effectively reduce the market share for these production giants. Mainland China also represents a considerable export force in the market with its production of P. vannamei, but it too has had problems with the European market due to detection of banned antibiotic residues in its shrimp (as have Thailand, Viet Nam, Indonesia and India) and hence restrictions on imports.


The major markets have traditionally imported more cultured P. monodon than P. vannamei and P. stylirostris, primarily due to greater supply of the former. However, the United States of America market prefers white shrimp as consumers say it is sweeter. Moreover, Penaeus vannamei has a greater percentage of tail meat (at 66–68 percent) than P. monodon (at 62 percent). With the increasing importation of value-added products, P. vannamei can fill roles traditionally taken by P. monodon since there are no obvious differences between the two products after processing (TRFC Web site).

With the slow growth of major world shrimp markets in recent years, increasing emphasis will inevitably be placed on the domestic markets of the major shrimp producers. In Asia, now the fastest growing and biggest producer of P. vannamei, Mainland China and Taiwan Province of China already have high and established demands for white shrimp (75 and 100 percent of production consumed locally, respectively), since previous production of P. chinensis created a ready market. After initial hesitance, Thai shrimp processors are also willing to accept P. vannamei, for both domestic (primed for white shrimp by initial culture and capture of P. merguiensis and P. indicus) (20–30 percent in 2003) and export markets, primarily as processed product (70–80 percent of Thai production in 2003) (TRFC Web site).

The ability to grow P. vannamei in freshwater may also be an advantage in the United States of America market, based on results of a consumer acceptance test run by the UF/IFAS Food Science and Human Nutrition Department of the University of Florida. This study concluded that United States of America consumers preferred freshwater grown P. vannamei over those grown in brackish or salt water or harvested from the sea. This was due to better aroma, appearance, flavour and texture characteristics of freshwater grown shrimp. They stated that there was a strong consumer demand in the United States of America for a higher quality product than that currently available (UF/IFAS, 2003).

However, there are disadvantages to the culture of P. vannamei in that they do not normally grow as large as P. monodon and P. stylirostris and cannot access the lucrative market for larger sized shrimp which have a much higher price per kilo. In addition, when white shrimp production begins in Asian countries, processors are often reluctant to accept the product since they do not have marketing routes established. For example, Thai processors did not accept or paid very low prices for P. vannamei until they identified marketing channels for them. Similarly, Malaysia is still without processors for P. vannamei and must send the product to Singapore or Thailand for processing (Dato Mohamed Shariff, per. com.).

If the culture of P. vannamei continues to grow in Asia, world production of this species will overtake that of all other shrimp species and will soon surpass the current market size. The inevitable result will be that prices will fall and there will be immense competition between Asian and Latin American producers with a greater requirement for cost-cutting and enhanced efficiency. All of this will also be against a background of the current anti-dumping case of the United States of America shrimp fisherfolk and farmers.






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