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May 24, 2014

Panama/Thailand

Shrimp Prices from The Shrimp List

 

Jose Bolivar Martinez (“Boli”, bolimartinez1959@yahoo.com), president of Grupo Farallon Aquaculture, which operates shrimp hatcheries (“Mega Larva”) and farms in Panama and elsewhere in Latin America, reports:

 

I would like to call attention to the recent downfall in shrimp prices.  How did this happen at a time when production is really low in some of the most important production areas of the world?

 

At the European Seafood Exposition 2014 trade show in Brussels (May 6-8, 2014), I learned that there had been a “situation” with imports from Ecuador into China on the northern border with Vietnam [Shrimp News: Ecuadorian shrimp was being illegally shipped into China through Vietnam.]  When China cracked down on this trade, a lot of containers had to be returned to Ecuador or disposed of at a big discount, which sent shock waves through the industry, and prices dropped suddenly.

 

Shrimp importers, noticing the drop in prices, decided to postpone their orders until the price of shrimp hit bottom, which caused prices to drop even more.  This is all normal free market capitalism, yet it was misinterpreted as a possible surplus of product based on extraordinary production somewhere or a recovery in countries that are trying to survive the early mortality syndrome (EMS) epidemic.  It led to confusion and delayed orders from buyers.

 

We are all aware that in 2013 shrimp prices were very high and that at the beginning of 2014, prices for large shrimp began to drop because of they cost so much, resulting in increase demand and prices for medium and small shrimp.  Demand simply shifted to smaller sizes—it did not disappeared.

 

At the Brussels show, I also learned that some Chinese importers returned to legal ways of importing Ecuadorian shrimp through Vietnam because they needed the product.  I asked a few friends from Ecuador, how long would it take them to sell off their surplus product, and they estimate it would take about two weeks.

 

In the meantime, harvests were delayed in Ecuador, which will delay stocking of the next crop and reduce supplies.

 

Since the Brussels show, I met with one of the most important processors/exporters in Thailand, and he said that prices were still going down internationally, while he was paying more for the little production he could get from the local producers.  His expectations were that the price would—“NO DOUBT”—go up again.  He simply needs the product.

 

So my suggestion to shrimp buyers is to buy as much as they can now, while prices are low.  Worldwide production in 2014 will definitely be below 2013 levels and much lower than expected.  Demand for medium and small sizes will be stronger than ever.  Whitespot and EMS are still reducing production.

 

Bad news on Mexico’s first crop of the year is causing shrimp prices to increase throughout Central American.  In addition, the European Union’s dropping of the import tax on shrimp from Central America to zero should boost demand and prices.  And Ecuador is entering its cool season when production drops, so there should be strong international demand for shrimp for the next 60 days.

 

In my opinion, there is no easy way out of the production crisis even if the best technology and the best genetic lines are adopted.  Simply, it will just take some time for production to return to normal.  Once the first harvest of the year occurs in Central America, there will very little production in Latin America until the second harvest is ready for harvest.

 

Information: Jose Bolivar Martinez, Grupo Farallon, Centro Comercial Los Pueblos 2000, Panamá City, Panamá (phone +507-3801-500, fax +507-3801-501, email info@gfarallon.com, webpage http://www.gfarallon.com).

 

Daniel Gruenberg (seagardenfoods@mac.com), CEO of Sureerath Prawns in Thailand, responded to Boli’s comments:

 

Shrimp prices in Thailand do seem to be on an upward trend over the last week or so.  Just in the last few days, farm-gate prices for 100 count per kilo whole shrimp have risen from $5.15 to $5.30 a kilo, and 60 count per kilo shrimp have remained steady at about $6.60 per kilo.

 

Despite EMS fears, the previous high prices allowed farmers to take risks and stock their ponds.  The recent drop in prices, however, has caused farmers to reconsider the risk of stocking because their chances of making a profit have been diminished.

 

So it’s a Catch-22: Buyers are not ready to buy, and farmers are not ready to stock, so I think prices are going to move up from here.

 

Hopefully the current trend of increasing farm-gate prices in Thailand will eventually be enough so that farmers start stocking again, and we can get some production going as we enter the hot/wet monsoon season.

 

I have also recently seen reports of pond mortalities due to very high temperature in southern Thailand, but I am not sure what impact that has on the big picture here.

 

Thailand is also experiencing one of the worst droughts in recent history, but again its impact on shrimp farms is unclear at the moment.

 

It would be nice if some of our colleagues in Indonesia, India and Vietnam chimed in on the market situation in their countries.

 

Information: Daniel Gruenberg, Sureerath Prawns, 105 Moo 13 Paknam, Laemsing, Chanthaburi, Thailand 22130 (phone +66-39-363075, mobile +66-87-059-7528, Skype danielpattaya1, fax +66-39-363721, email daniel@sureerathprawns.com, webpages http://www.sureerathprawns.com, and http://www.eopathailand.org).

 

Source: The Shrimp List (a mailing list for shrimp farmers).  Subject: Shrimp Prices.  May 23, 2014.

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