China’s shrimp market poised for change as free trade deal with Ecuador kicks in

Boxes of Ecuadorian shrimp available in China
Boxes of Ecuadorian shrimp available in China | Photo courtesy of Metsä
4 Min

A free trade agreement (FTA) signed in May 2023 by China and Ecuador came into effect at the beginning of May.

Ecuadorian shrimp has become a favorite in China, increasing its shipments tenfold to China between 2018 and 2022. Ecuador accounted for 697,357 metric tons (MT) of China’s 987,601 MT of shrimp imports in 2023, accounting for a 71 percent market share. However, Ecuador’s shrimp exports to China fell 21.5 percent by volume and 32.3 percent by value in February 2023. Most of China’s Ecuadorian imports are head-on, shell-on (HOSO) shrimp that are processed into value-added products for the domestic market and reexport.

China’s shrimp imports were up 12.4 percent by volume but down 4.2 percent by value in 2023 a sign China is struggling to keep up with large volumes of cheaper imported shrimp. The trend was a global one, with the value of shrimp imports into the top four markets – China, the E.U., Japan, and the U.S. – falling from USD 19.7 billion (EUR 18.5 billion) in 2022 to around USD 17.3 billion (EUR 16.2 billion) in 2023, according to Shrimp Insights.

Between January and March 2024, China’s shrimp exports dropped 15 percent by value to USD 1.1 billion (EUR 1 billion) and 3 percent by volume to 231,128 MT, according to China Customs statistics.

While the near-term outlook for how the FTA will impact Ecuador’s shrimp exports to China remains uncertain due to China’s economic instability, longer term, it is likely to result in Chinese consumers paying ...

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