China becomes the world’s top shrimp importer


Increased supply of farmed shrimp kept Ecuador at the helm of global shrimp trade from January to September 2022. During this period China overtook the United States of America as the top import market with large supplies from Ecuador and a wider supply gap with Asian producers.


The cost of aquaculture inputs (feed, fuel and transportation) increased considerably in 2022 causing hardship for shrimp farmers worldwide. Nonetheless, production and exports of farmed shrimp in Asia were moderate during the second and third quarters of 2022 which is the main farming season in this region. Species wise, vannamei shrimp dominated supply. Increased production of farmed black tiger shrimp in Asia is also noteworthy, after years of low black tiger production.

Demand and prices of shrimp in the major markets were relatively stable during January to August. From September, shrimp prices in the international trade started to weaken reaching low levels in October that were not profitable for many farmers to continue production, particularly in Asia. In India shrimp farmers have reduced pond stocking and processors decreased export processing due to falling market prices. The trend is also similar in Southeast Asia (Viet Nam, Indonesia, Thailand).
Farmed shrimp production will be seasonally low in Asia during November to February/March.

In Latin America, Ecuador which is the top producer of farmed shrimp, there continues to be strong growth of farmed shrimp outputs and over one million tonnes production are forecast in 2022.

In the United States of America, Hurricane Ian, a Category 4, severely affected the Southwest coast of Florida, destroying shrimp vessels and port facilities. US fish wholesalers are dealing with complications due to the storm, including shipments involving Florida and other places where the storm attacked.

In Argentina, high inflation, the unfavourable exchange rate, and the increased cost of fishing have impacted the Argentine shrimp industry. Unsold stocks are high in Argentina and also in the main markets in Europe due to low demand where the species is in competition with farmed vannamei. This has led to lower prices, especially for the large sized shrimp while exports to the European markets declined somewhat.

International Trade

In general shrimp trade worldwide continued the positive trend during the first half of 2022. In most markets, imports were higher compared with the same period in 2021.


Increased production of farmed shrimp in 2022 (particularly vannamei) in Asia and Latin America catered to the rising global demand for shrimp in 2022. Among the leading exporters, Ecuador and Viet Nam endured the highest growth rates during the January to June 2022 review period while India and Indonesia barely sustained the positive trends. Exports declined from Thailand, China and Argentina.

During this period, the supply gap between the top two exporters, Ecuador and India, widened as the former increased its market shares in China, the United States of America and the European Union and many more markets. Ecuador also increased exports of raw peeled shrimp and breaded shrimp to the western markets.


From January to June 2022, the cumulative imports of shrimp in the five leading markets were 13 percent higher at 1.36 million tonnes in comparison with the same period last year.

Imports of semi-processed (peeled shrimp) and processed shrimp (breaded and others) increased in the western markets and Japan during this period, mostly supplied by Viet Nam, Thailand, Indonesia and China. Exports of raw peeled shrimp also increased from Ecuador.

Since the beginning of autumn, imports have softened in the United States of America and Europe where stocks in the local supply chain were large.

United States of America

The US food service sector faced challenging times associated with high fuel prices, increased transportation costs, inflation, a second consecutive quarter of no GDP growth, which affected costs in the supply chain, increased logistics times and storage issues. However, sales have managed to survive while wholesale shrimp prices remained remarkably stable, keeping consumer demand firm when compared to other fish and fishery products. With almost no restriction measures, outdoor dining has become a fundamental ally in the US catering trade.

During the first half of 2022, there was a 9 percent rise in US shrimp imports at 441 299 tonnes, which had a custom-declared value of USD 4.2 billion. Of this amount 41 percent was raw peeled shrimp, 32 percent raw shell-on shrimp and 26 percent processed products. Among the top exporters, India and Indonesia lost market shares to Ecuador, Viet Nam and Thailand during the review period.

The European Union

Along with the reopening of the restaurant and catering trade since last year, consumer demand for shrimp increased significantly in the European Union market. Imports exceeded 400 000 tonnes (+11 percent), including the intra-European Union trade, during January to June 2022. Spain, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Belgium were the top importers.

Imports from the non-European Union sources were 296 407 tonnes (+15.7 percent) during this period. The top suppliers were Ecuador, India, Greenland, Viet Nam, and Argentina.

In the market, Argentine whole red shrimp is in heavy competition with vannamei; the latter offered a more accessible price. The main market for Argentine shrimp, Spain, is shifting towards vannamei. The high cold storage holdings of Argentine shrimp, in addition to the weakened buyer purchasing power, creates an unfavourable market environment.

Europe – non-European Union

Imports also increased in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (+12.8 percent; 38 878 tonnes) and Switzerland (30.3 percent at 4 560 tonnes) but declined in Norway (-11 percent; 8 090 tonnes). Import trends were volatile in Ukraine (-61 percent; 3 648 tonnes) and the Russian Federation due to the on-going conflict between these two countries. During the first half of 2022 shrimp exports from Argentina to the Russian Federation fell by 84 percent due to the financial embargo on the latter.


Consumer demand for shrimp has been strong in the retail and catering trade in the Chinese market and supply gaps are increasingly met through imports. Domestic production of farmed shrimp generally increases during April to October.
In 2022, imports increased by 25.8 percent at 370 123 tonnes during the first half of the year. Ecuadorean shrimp, the top product group, had the lion share (60 percent) followed by India (12.5 percent), Viet Nam (6 percent), Canada (3.6 percent) and Greenland (3 percent).

By the third quarter of 2022, cumulative imports rose in the market by 51.6 percent to 661 822 tonnes, which made China the world’s largest shrimp importer. This volume was 225 133 tonnes higher than January to September 2021. Ecuador maintained its market share at 60 percent (395 000 tonnes), widening the gap with other shrimp exporters. Supplies of farmed and sea-caught shrimp increased from the other suppliers (India, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Greenland, Argentina). This unusual move and its impact on the global market needs to be monitored as US imports also reached 646 030 tonnes during this period.


Demand for shrimp remained soft in Japan throughout 2022, particularly for raw shrimp but was higher ranked for higher value products.

Imports during January to June 2022 were 96 555 tonnes (+2.3 percent) consisting of 61 percent of raw shrimp and 33.5 percent of processed shrimp. In comparison with the same period in 2021, raw shrimp imports declined (- 2 percent; 63 065 tonnes) but increased for processed shrimp (+12 percent; 32 380 tonnes) sourced from Thailand, Viet Nam, Indonesia and China.

The Japanese borders for foreign tourists remained closed for almost two and a half years until September 2022, affecting demand for semi-processed shrimp (semi-processed tempura shrimp, raw peeled tail-on shrimp) generally required in the restaurant trade.


Throughout 2022, Southeast Asia and the Pacific regional markets posted positive demand trends in the retail and catering trade.

Imports of fresh and frozen shrimp for domestic consumption increased in the Republic of Korea, Taiwan Province of China, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore during the review period. Throughout 2022, retail prices of shrimp remained high compared with export prices in western markets.

Imports of frozen shrimp for export processing also increased in Viet Nam and Thailand during the review period in 2022.


Normally, prices of farmed shrimp in Asia adjust during the main production period (May to September) and stabilise by October. This year, however, shrimp prices started to fall from mid-September in the international trade to unprofitable lows for farmers amidst the rising costs of aquaculture inputs.


During the next four to five months production of farmed shrimp in Asia will be seasonally low. In India, vannamei production is forecasted to drop to some 800 000 tonnes in 2022. In Southeast Asia, Thailand, Viet Nam and Indonesia, production is also expected to slightly decrease compared with 2021.

Considering Ecuador’s steady monthly exports in 2022, farmed shrimp production in the country is likely to increase by 30 to 35 percent in 2022 which was one million tonnes in 2021.

For sea-caught shrimp, the industry in Argentina expects prices to stabilize in the coming months with some firming demand.
High imports into China confirm that the country has secured large supplies for the Gregorian and Lunar New Year celebrations in 2023, when consumer demand rises significantly.

The high imports into the United States of America in the first nine months of the year, may reduce imports from Asia during October to December and procure future supplies from the closer-by supply source - Ecuador.

Imports in the European Union will likely be conservative as the Euro remains weak against the US dollar.

On the supply side, Ecuador will enjoy a comparative advantage over Asian suppliers in all three markets (China, United States of America and the European Union). Argentine shrimp fishers forecast smaller catches in 2022 compared to 2021. Stakeholders considered catch levels not entirely satisfactory as vessels landed 36 percent less than during the same period in 2020. In addition, shrimp processing activities could be disrupted for some time due to lack of raw material between seasons.

Share this page