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Shrimp prices continue roller-coaster ride

Prices for shrimp from Asia are now higher than Latin American product, in another development in an unusual year for the sector, executives told IntraFish.

At this time last year, 41/50 headless, shell on (HLSO)
shrimp from Latin America were $3 (€2.11) a pound and $2.90 (€2.04) a pound from Asia, said Erine Wayland, executive vice president with U.S. importer International marketing Specialists. 

“This year, prices have escalated due to rising costs for fuel, commodities such as feed, inflation, and currency exchange issues related to the weak dollar,” Wayland told IntraFish. “The flooding in Asia due unseasonal rains, colder weather, and white spot disease have also contributed to the firmer prices.”

The current market price for Latin American 41/50 HLSO is $3.45 (€2. 42) to $3.55 (€2. 49) a pound, he said.

Meanwhile, prices from Asia have overtaken the Latin American products and are at between $3.60 (€2. 53) and $3.70 (€2. 60) a pound, he said.

In past “normal” market environments, Asian shrimp is quoted under the Latin product, said Wayland. “The complete lack of inventory in the market at this time has created this price inversion.”

If any Asian product was available, “it would probably bring the prices in sync. A heavier production and availability of Asian product would most likely bring the Asian prices back underneath the Latin product, “he said. “This past year has been – and still is – a very unusual market situation.”


Asian producers are still struggling with raw material problems so “pricing on this side of the water remains quite firm,” said Jim Gulkin, managing director of Siam Canadian, a Thailand-based shrimp exporter.


“Current pricing for 41/50 Thailand HLSO EZ PEEL [Thailand does not produce much regular 41/50 HLSO] is around @3.60 (€2. 53) per pound, not including anti-dumping duty,” he told IntraFish. 


“South American shrimp producers are not as well financed as Asian producers. When it’s time to harvest they harvest, pack and sell rather quickly as they have limited cold storage capacity and financing. They can’t afford to hold onto cargo for too long so when the shrimp are running, their prices tend to weaken.


Exporters in Ecuador are also seeing a price difference between Asian and Latin-produced shrimp.


“In Ecuador we farm raise and process a value-added, all natural, Pacific white shrimp product which is exported to the United States before being placed in high-end natural food store chains,” said Douglas Beatty, of shrimp farmer Isla Camaron.


“Last month, while pricing our next shipments we checked with some of our shrimp producing colleagues in Asia to compare our pricing on the same product presentation,” he said.


The Asia U.S. delivered prices were higher by approx @0.10 (€0. 07) to $0.12 (€0. 08) per pound he said.


“I was not surprised to see the shrimp in the same size and specification – 30/35 – slightly higher than prices here in Ecuador,” he told IntraFish. “Production problems in Asia will increase prices…staring there and reach us shortly. I believe production problems, disease and weather related issues have caused a shortage of large Asian produced shrimp; buyers are paying a slight premium due to a possible lack of consistent supply.” 

The Latin American farmers are not being so heavily hit by higher deed costs, which is allowing them to keep prices lower than Asia, said Erik Smeys, CEO of Investment Commerce Fisheries Corporation (Incomfish), which prodesses and exports shrimp from Vietnam.


“Move of them are producing their own feed and not having to buy as much from outside sources,” he told IntraFish.


In addition production in China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam will be down in 2011 and “demand is still there,” he said.


Prices from Ecuador, the largest production country in Latin America, could increase over the next few months, said an executive from a farmer and exporter based in the country.


“May and June are usually slow and then demand picks up and prices hit a peak around August,” according to sources in Ecuador.


The lack of balance in the Chinese market, where consumption is growing rapidly and production is down, is causing the higher prices in Asia compared to Latin America.


If more Asian shrimp starts coming on the market for sale to Europe and the United States, prices could correct down a bit in September through the rest of the year, sources in Ecuador said.


The Ecuadorian companies sell 41/50 HLSO shrimp into the United States and 50/60 head-on is their main product for the Europe market.


Prices for 50/60 head-on are $5.50 (€3.8) a pound free-on-board (FOB), which is a bit lower than the level seen this time last year. 

However, it was around this time last year that we saw a “big increase in prices,” they said. 

U.S. prices

Price are no coming down in the producing countries, or in the United States, said Wayland.


“The packers’ position is that costs have gone through the roof due to unfavorable climate conditions, foreign exchange, fuel, and commodity price increases,”


Packers maintain that these costs have to be recovered, to the extent that is possible, from the market side, he said.


“On the market side, prices are flat with very little movement up or down. Medium to small sizes - - in the range of 31/35 to 71/90 - - are in short supply as many packers in most countries prefer to target larger sizes for more profit, but the added inventory in these large sizes is going to put pressure on large white shrimp from 26/30 to 16/20,” said Wayland.


India in particular will be targeting increased production of large sizes and the U.S. is their target market, he said.


“So to summarize, prices are still high overseas with no foreseeable let up while market prices are stable – and nervous – with some predicting even higher prices this summer and fall,” he said.

Image: Corbisimages

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