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Shrimp - April 2010


Shrimp trade is improving and higher prices are likely - The lessening of the economic crisis resulted in strong demand for shrimp in all main markets during the opening months of the year. As supply available on the market was limited, prices started to move upwards. Many packers are not able to commit to advance contracts because of raw material shortages and rising pieces. Trade is expected to be brisk in coming months, as restaurant trade in the USA and Japan is showing some signs of recovery and inventories are very low. Prices are likely to go up in coming weeks with some stabilization from mid-May onwards.

Shrimp culture production stabilized in 2009

China and Thailand reported higher production in 2009, while other Asian countries such as Viet Nam and Indonesia had lower shrimp outputs last year. Overall, world shrimp aquaculture declined in 2009, for the first time in history. Some 2.8 million tonnes were produced, 70 000 tonnes less than in 2008.  Harvests of farmed shrimp were low in the opening months of 2010, as usual at this time of the year. Production will come into full swing after May.

Last year’s export from Viet Nam of vannamei shrimp totalled 50 000 tonnes and this year the volume is likely to increase further. This high quantity is surprising, as Viet Nam began vannamei culture only a few years ago. Despite difficulties faced by the aquaculture sector in 2009, Viet Nam managed to increase its shrimp exports by 7.4% in quantity and 0.7% in value against 2008, amounting to 190 000 tonnes worth USD 1.5 billion. Viet Nam exported shrimp to 82 destinations with the main markets being Japan, USA, the Republic of Korea, China (Mainland and Taiwan Province of China), Germany, Australia, Canada, UK and Belgium. Black tiger shrimp contributed 75% of the total export value last year. Germany was the largest market in the EU taking around 30% of the Viet Nam’s total shrimp exports to the EU.

Some consignments of Bangladeshi shrimp were sent back to the country from the EU after the detection of nitrofuran in some shrimp consignments in June 2009. In response, the government suspended shrimp exports to the EU for six months, as a precautionary measure to avoid sanctions by the EU authorities. In January 2010, Bangladesh notified the EU that shrimp exports would resume as measures had been taken to ensure that shrimp was nitrofuran-free. The impact of this interruption of shrimp exports to the EU was not reflectied in the amount imported, as Bangladeshi shrimp exports to the main markets, UK and Germany, almost doubled in 2009 compared with 2008.

Strong yen helps Japanese shrimp traders

The yen remained strong throughout 2009, encouraging higher imports into Japan. Shrimp consumption in Japan also increased last year with a steady rise from January to August and during the end-of-year festivities. Thus imports in 2009 increased, although only marginally, compared with 2008. The positive trend is continuing this year with active trade in the domestic and import markets. Good demand in the retail market reversed the negative trend that trade experienced during 2007 and 2008. As for value added products, imports of cooked frozen shrimp (shell-on and peeled) and sushi shrimp with rice increased but for the other categories products such as tempura shrimp (prepared/preserved), imports declined. The falling restaurant trade also affected imports of such products.

During 2009, Thailand was the leading supplier of shrimp to the Japanese market followed by Viet Nam and Indonesia. All in all, the market imported 67 000 tonnes of shrimp from Thailand, of which 52% was prepared and processed products (HS code 1605). The shares of processed shrimp from Viet Nam and Indonesia were 25% and 16% respectively.

The yen further gained strength by mid-February against the US dollar, generating brisk imports and local wholesale trade in preparation for the Spring festivals. Farmed black tiger and white vannamei stocks in Japan are reduced at importers and wholesalers level as intermediary users continue to source from stocks which were bought earlier at lower prices. Vannamei remains the preferred variety for many retail traders. In order to avoid price increases, supermarkes favour smaller sized shrimp.

US retail market strong

The economic recession and record high unemployment continue to upset the restaurant trade in the USA. In contrast, the revival of home cooking supports retail trade more strongly than the food service sector in terms of volumes and values. In these circumstances, US shrimp imports could be expected to drop, but in actual terms, it was relatively stable at 540 000 tonnes in 2009, only 2.1% below the volume of the previous year. Expectations for this year are that imports will stay at that level. However, there was a decline in terms of value (USD 3.8 billion last year, which means a 7.4% fall compared with 2008). These figures underline the overall weakening of shrimp prices during the year, but also the change in consumption patterns. Lower restaurant trade resulted in reduced demand for large-sized shrimp, while more small-sized shrimp was on offer by supermarkets. Currently, the market is steady, mostly as a result of a balance in supply and demand.

Shrimp prices in the US market increased quite strongly in the opening months of 2010, indicating the overall strength in the market and shortage in supplies. Further increases are expected, at least until the new season’s production comes in around May-June. The Japanese market is also quite strong, with demand expanding for large-sized shrimp, both for black tiger and white shrimp, a category where very small stocks are kept. In this market environment, further price increases are likely.

US shrimp exporters are concerned about the 20% duty they have to pay on exports to the EU, while Canada has to pay only 6%, enabling Canadian companies to undercut US producers. The impact of this disparity in tariffs was paricularly felt last year, when the economic crisis led to very low prices, and tough competition. Last year as prices plunged, Canada subsidized shrimp catches, ruining the market for US coldwater shrimp.  In Astoria, Oregon, where once eight shrimp-peeling plants were operating, only two are left. US catch licenses for coldwater shrimp are thus unused even though the resource is quite strong.

Spain well supplied by Argentina

The Spanish market continues to be the largest shrimp market in the EU. Despite the economic crisis, Spanish imports in 2009 were almost on a par with the 2008 imports, at 160 000 tonnes. In the last quarter of the year, imports were stable at 55 000 tonnes. Argentina was the main exporter of shrimp to the Spanish market in 2009, with 36 000 tonnes or almost one quarter of the supply. Argentine exports increased strongly in 2009 (+27%) helped by record catches. However, the unit value of Argentine shrimp was very low in 2009, only EUR 4.68/kg, compared with EUR 6.21/kg in 2008. Argentinian exporters generally do not like protracted price negotiations, and prefer cash deals. In years of bumper production, export prices of Argentine seafood are very low. This situation helped the Spanish shrimp market to retain market share in the very difficult economic circumstances prevalent last year.

The other two major shrimp exporters to the Spanish market reported sharply reduced exports: China exported 25 400 tonnes to Spain, 6% less than in 2008. The unit value of Chinese shrimp increased somewhat to EUR 2.89/kg, but is still the cheapest product on the market. Ecuador reported a 27% decline in exports to the Spanish market.

UK shrimp imports grew by 5% in 2009, with the cooked and peeled sector (C&P) mainly responsible for the increase. In this sector it is noteworthy that tropical suppliers increased their presence, while the traditional coldwater shrimp suppliers lost ground. In the C&P segment, Thailand exported 7 700 tonnes or 54% more than in 2008, and is now the number two supplier of C&P shrimp to the UK market. Viet Nam and Indonesia, too, expanded their exports to this market. Traditional coldwater shrimp exporters reported 25 000 tonnes of C&P exports in 2009, a 3% decline from 2008. With regard to price developments during 2009, it is significant that the value of C&P products went up, after years of continuous decline. It is also important to note that Thailand’s unit value of C&P shrimp is GBP 5.20/kg, or GBP 0.70-1.00/kg higher than coldwater shrimp prices. This shows that there is a margin for higher prices also for the Pandalus borealis product. However, the exchange rate of the British currency in 2009 was, on average, lower than in 2008.

The other European markets reported stable imports, with the exception of Germany, where imports grew by a strong 17%. This market is very price conscious. In fact the average unit value of shrimp on the German market is EUR 5.83/kg, while some six years ago it was EUR 6.60/kg and has declined continuously since then. Importers took advantage of the lower prices in 2009 to build up inventories. It should be noted, however, that the German market has one of the highest unit values of shrimp in the EU.

Demand strong for shrimp in coming months

Building on a good first quarter of 2010, markets are expecting improved supplies and lower prices from April onwards when the new harvest season begins. At the same time, consumer demand patterns should to be monitored during the April-May high consumption season to determine market trends for the remainder of the year.

The US market is expected to be strong, with consumers returning to restaurants following economic recovery, which seems to have reached all major sectors. In view of depleted inventories, prices are likely to go up in coming months, in expectation of domestic production coming into the market in June.

The European market was quite good in 2009, and is expected to strengthen in the near future. Further imports into the major markets are likely, though the Spanish market might lag behind expectations.

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