International News

Global Shrimp Markets: Looking Beyond the Pandemic” Webinar Conducted by the Society of Aquaculture Professionals Sept 28, 2020

The webinar conducted by Society of Aquaculture Professionals, India on September 23rd and 24th had nine speakers covering the major markets of shrimp consumption and production. George Chamberlain, the President of the Global Aquaculture Alliance, in his keynote address of the event pointed out that global shrimp supply has been on a rising trend for the last few years and prices have been falling during the same time indicating that markets were getting saturated in spite of the emergence of China as a major market in recent years.

Citing the case of avocado as an example of what unified marketing efforts by the producers and sellers can achieve, Dr Chamberlain called for a similar effort in which shrimp consumption is promoted. Angel Rubio, the Chief Analyst at Urner Barry, a leading food data services firm, talked about the shrimp demand in the US market and said that retail sales of shrimp rose during the pandemic but could not compensate for the lost sales in the food service segment. Price of shrimp fell as a result but retail establishments passed the benefit of low prices to the consumers through promotions. It is likely that the experience of cooking shrimp at home will encourage consumers to increase their purchase of shrimp in retail outlets even after the pandemic is over.

Willem van der Pijl, a seasoned industry analyst of the shrimp sector who recently started Shrimp Insights, a data service specific to global shrimp trading, spoke about the European markets. He said that shrimp consumption in Europe was down by 6% up to June 2020, but the shrimp mostly impacted by this drop was the ocean-caught premium shrimp. The farmed

penaeid shrimp were much less affected (only 1%). Due to opening of restaurants, the summer sales of shrimp is believed to have been healthy but the ongoing second wave of Coronavirus outbreak points to the possibility of lockdowns during the winter which would negatively impact consumption. Among the suppliers, Vietnamese and Latin American suppliers have a competitive position in the European markets requiring other Asian suppliers to reassess their competitiveness.

Vincent Lin of Grobest presented an analysis of China as a shrimp destination. The country had imported 703,000 tonnes of shrimp in 2019 and was maintaining an increasing trend of imports till July 2020 when fragments of Coronavirus genetic materials were found on the packaging materials of shrimp imported from Ecuador. Consumer confidence was severely impacted and the import volumes and prices tumbled as a result. China’s shrimp production has been affected due to the emergence of new diseases, so local production will go down and be directed to the premium live markets. Resumption of imports at or beyond the scale of 2019 will resume only when consumers gain the confidence that frozen food is not a risk factor in the spread of coronavirus.

Pawan Kumar Gunturu of Sprint Foods, India provided a perspective of Indian exporters to the global markets. He mentioned that shrimp processing was affected due to the lockdown which caused difficulties in accessing the process plants and forced migrant workers to move back to their home bases. Cancellation or postponement of purchase orders decline in prices and cancellation of export incentives by the government have caused further hardships for the exporters. Mr Gunturu emphasized that India needs to build on its strengths and move into more value added products in the near future.

In the subsequent panel discussion moderated by Ravi Kumar Yellanki of Vaisakhi Biomarine, P. Anil kumar of the Marine Products Export Development Authority, indicated that Indian shrimp exports have declined by about 15% but the exports of cooked and breaded forms of products to the US market have registered an increase indicating that Indian processors have the flexibility to meet the market requirements in a short notice. S. Santhanakrishnan of Maritech, a seafood and aquaculture consulting firm, said that India’s ability to supply large size shrimp can be leveraged to serve niche markets globally. The program on September 24th was on shrimp supply from major markets. Speaking about the Vietnamese market, the CEO of Grobest Feeds, Samson Lee, remarked that supplies from Vietnam have not been severely affected due to the significant domestic market and sustained demand from the export markets. Strict control of the pandemic and sensible lockdown policies minimized the disruptions in supply. However, a contraction of supplies from about 630,000 tonnes in 2019 to 570,000 tonnes in 2020 may occur. For the long term, Mr Lee predicted a strong growth of the Vietnamese supply and higher productivity through intensification including a return to 2019 production levels in 2021 and from there on a 3% annual growth.

Haris Muhtadi of CJ Feeds, Indonesia said that the country did not follow a strict lockdown. The first half of 2020 saw a slight increase in the production and export of shrimp when

compared to the previous year. Indonesia’s production in recent years has reached close to 350,000 tonnes and the production in the first six months of 2020 was estimated to be about 200,000 tonnes. The USA remained the largest importer of Indonesian shrimp buying nearly 65% of the production. Mr Muhtadi estimated that there may be some drop in production in the second half of the year due to disease challenges and Indonesia may end up with a decline of about 6-7% in production by the end of the year.

Paresh Kumar Shetty of Avanti Feeds, India said that the sudden and strict early lockdown in the country resulted in many disruptions affecting shrimp production and processing. Lower shrimp prices also dampened farmers’ spirits. While lockdown has been relaxed, labor availability continues to be an issue. Also, farmers are facing production challenges in many regions. As a result, Mr Shetty said that India’s farmed shrimp production is likely to go down from about 800,000 tonnes in 2019 to about 675,000 tonnes in 2020.

Gabriel Luna, an industry analyst in the shrimp business of Ecuador, spoke about the phenomenal growth of shrimp production and exports in the past ten years. Exports from Ecuador had grown four times in ten years and reached about 630,000 tonnes in 2019. By August 2020, the country had reached about 450,000 tonnes, a 6% year-on-year increase. This increase was despite the difficulties due to lockdown and exports to China, Ecuador’s largest market in 2019. Shrimp farmers were unable to harvest their crops in April and May due to the lockdown followed by disruptions in exports to China in July. Shrimp prices collapsed to historic lows as a result.

Fortunately, Ecuador was able to quickly increase its sales to the USA and Europe and has presently achieved a good redistribution of its markets. The decline in prices has affected profitability but Mr Luna remarked that Ecuador will seek to improve productivity not by expanding land area or intensification but by focusing on improvements in shrimp growth and survival and to improve profitability by going into niche markets like organic shrimp. The panel discussion at the end of the second day noted that shrimp supply from the major producing countries has not been seriously impacted by COVID-19. Perhaps, the global supply of farmed shrimp may decline by about 10% in 2020 when compared to 2019. Global trade of shrimp has not been affected to a large extent except in the case of China.

However, lower shrimp consumption in the US where the increase in retail sales has not compensated for the loss of food service sales, means that unsold inventories would be fairly high. Further declines can be expected in the winter due to anticipated restrictions in restaurant operations. Shrimp prices have been battered due to the disruptions of the lockdown as well as the loss of consumer confidence in China. While the low prices have been used to stimulate some of the consumption, the response in the major producing countries to low prices will drive future decisions on production, types of products, market focus, and farming technologies. Dr Chamberlain reiterated that the pandemic only exacerbated what was already a downward trend in prices and the solution was to invest in a unified market promotion by the stakeholders in the shrimp sector to stimulate more consumption.