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04/02/2013 - Shrimp: A year of risk?

EEUU.- The forecast for the global shrimp industry this year is cloudy at best. 

“Grim” is the best word to describe the shrimp panel at the National Fisheries Institute’s (NFI) Global Seafood Market Conference in Santa Monica, Calif. last week.

Another one might be “honest.” It is going to be a tough, tough year for shrimp in 2013, and not a single one of the panelists even tried to pretend different.

Where to begin? Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS) and weather threaten production. The US Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries has leveled accusations of dumping against seven shrimp production nations, which could lead to countervailing duties (CVD). In addition, rising labor costs are putting further pressure on already tight margins.

At the same conference last year, shrimp panelists projected a rise in overall supply to the United States – but that did not happen. From July-November of last year (the most recent month for which data is available), US imports of shrimp were down 16.7 percent.

Thailand was the main culprit for the shortfall. Thailand’s exports to both the United States and EU dropped sharply. US imports of Thai shrimp fell by 27.5 percent over the year prior.

US imports from China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Mexico are down, too.

There are bright spots, though – namely India and Ecuador. Ecuadorian shrimp exports have doubled since 2005 to an estimated 411,000 metric tons last year. While some of that is helping with the vacuum left by Thailand, the real story in Ecuador is the massive export growth to both Vietnam and China, who are importing to keep product flowing through factories (though in the case of China, it’s unclear how much of that is staying in-country for consumption).

India, meanwhile, has grown in production and exports as well – but that’s been characterized by a major shift toward vannamei, which only four years ago barely registered on India’s production radar. The US market has been the beneficiary, with imports up 31 percent over the past year from India, led by headless, easy peel and raw peeled and deveined shrimp coming in.

But even the winners will feel the pressure from the disease, weather and potential labor and trade issues that are looming over the industry.

"It's fair to call this 'a year of risk,'" one panelist said.


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