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European shrimp buyers continue market struggle : 9 July 2013


Elisabeth Fischer - Intrafish
Published: 08 July 2013 01:17 PM
Updated: 08 July 2013 02:20 PM

Shrimp importers bemoan high prices as demand in Europe hits rock-bottom.

Asia's shrimp crisis has left its mark in Europe: Rising prices, lower supplies and dropping demand is leaving some importers struggling for survival.

Demand is holding up steady in the United Kingdom, but in central and southern Europe retailers and foodservice outlets are showing resilience to pay high prices, industry sources told IntraFish.

Sales figures have dropped by 20 to 30 percent, Evert Kok, purchasing director with Dutch importer Klaas Puul, said.

"We're working at a minimum at the moment," he told IntraFish. As a consequence, the company had to let go of some of its employees.

Three out of four supermarkets are rejecting the high prices for shrimp, choosing to switch over to poultry for instance, said Kok. "The market demand is much lower. It's simply too expensive."

Jim Gulkin, managing director at Siam Canadian, confirmed this, saying Europe is showing much lower demand for shrimp this year. Skyrocketing prices are the main reason, he said.

"No one is paying the current raw material price for Thai vannamei," he told IntraFish. Only certain retailers still demand the product, he said.

Due to the drop in demand, prices remained relatively stable for the past couple of months after hiking to new heights earlier in the year, Kok said. This was also confirmed by Gulkin.

In April, he told IntraFish prices leaped to THB 205 (€5.40/$7) for 60 pieces per kilogram -- a 43.3 percent hike from Dec. 24 when vannamei prices were THB 143 (€3.80/$4.90).

For 70 pieces per kilogram vannamei prices climbed from THB 136 (€3.60/$4.70) on Dec. 24 to THB 193 (€5.10/$6.60) at the beginning of April.

"Not much has changed since then," he said. A recovery to normal supply levels could be far off, but a slight improvement is expected in August and September this year.

"Farmers are still very careful" and reluctant to seed their ponds, he said. "We should see a reasonable production in the fourth quarter [of this year]."

Gert-Jan Wemmers, sales director at Anduronda, is slightly more optimistic, and said one will have to wait for the new harvesting season to see the full consequences for the year.

Vannamei are still in demand, but difficult to get -- especially bigger sizes, he said.

Black tiger shrimp are also seeing strong sales but Europe is increasingly seeing competition from buyers in the United States who are seeing a lack of white shrimp as a consequence of products coming from South America -- also largely due to Pescanova's downfall in Brazil, he said.

Prices of black tiger have risen 20 to 30 percent, he said -- from €7.65 ($9.80) to €9.85 ($12.60) per kilogram -- and are not expected to drop again.

No relief from EMS findings

The fact that the cause of the early mortality syndrome (EMS) was found earlier this year is good news but will have no short-term impact on the market supply, the two importers and Gulkin agreed.

"Antibiotics won't be the solution," Gulkin said. Producers are looking into coming up with new solutions, such as reducing stocking densities, but so far the magic bullet has not been found.

What this all means for full-year production output, and consequently also market demand, is difficult to say.

"There are just too many things going on at the moment involving production, farming, cultivation and diseases," Wemmer said. "Nobody knows what the rest of the year will bring."

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