US shrimp buyer: Don’t ignore dip in Thai imports : October 16, 2012
Tom Seaman : Undercurrentnews
As Thai shrimp imports continue to dip into the US, buyers are concerned.
Don Berger, director of procurement and marketing with California-based Sea Lion International, said the drop in Thai imports is a factor that is ignored at your peril.
The increase from Ecuador and India does not cover the drop from Thailand, he told Undercurrent News, a drop that can be seen from the graph below.
“You can see that the import level for August was under half the average import level for 2007-2011,” said Berger.
Another chart (second one down), supplied by Berger shows that the February to May 2012 imports were some of the lowest we have seen in years.
“Starting June 2011, every month was less than the same month a year prior. The other nice aspect of this chart is it clearly shows a pattern for supply. Even though it is farmed shrimp, the weather has the same impact as it would for a wild fishery,” said Berger.
September to December is when normally imports would start rising, not falling, he said.
We will have to see what happens next month to see if that is the case this year, said Berger.
Thailand is so important for the US market as it can supply big contracts, 200 containers, orders of this size, he added.
Prices for farmed shrimp in Thailand are up, while wholesale prices in the US are depressed.
The high raw material prices in Thailand, which can be seen in the Undercurrent News prices portal, are being driven by poor availability, said an executive with a Thai shrimp firm.
“Prices in Thailand as well as in Vietnam increase dramatically. This is because of low availability,” he told Undercurrent.
“And some shrimp farming areas in Thailand have problems with early mortality syndrome (EMS), the same as in Vietnam.”
Availability of shrimp in China is also down, said Jim Gulkin of Siam Canadian Group, in an interview with Undercurrent.
Berger anticipates rising prices in the US market, in the future.
“From January 2010 through November 2011, we saw a fairly steady increase in prices,” he said. “While I would have to dig out my old textbooks to be certain I am saying this correctly, but it appears much of this has to do with price elasticity. In other words, as prices go up, demand goes down.”
The rub is that restaurants take six months to change their menus and retailers are not much different, he said.
“The climbing markets causes demand to reduce and since November 2011 to now, it has taken this long for users to switch. Now with reduced supply and low prices, the pendulum will swing to the other side and we should see prices climb as users start to add shrimp back to the menus and adds.”