Chinese shrimp export prices to ease on better harvest

Published on
August 13, 2014

Suppliers in China are predicting an easing in shrimp prices of 10 to 15 percent this year thanks to higher survival rates in Chinese shrimp farms.

“The survival rate is now closer to 70 percent compared to 50 to 60 percent in 2013,” explains Guangdong-based shrimp exporter Landy Chow, head of China sourcing at Siam Canadian. He’s predicting a 10 percent increase in the volume of this year’s Chinese shrimp harvest and as a result his prices to U.S. customers have fallen from USD 5.70 (EUR 4.27) to USD 5.10 (EUR 3.82) per pound for 71-90 pieces of cooked, peeled shrimp.

Supply in China has been buffered by a solid output in Vietnam: raw shrimp from Vietnam accounts for up to 70 percent of volume in the giant Zhanjiang wholesale market in Guangdong province, which serves as a bellwether for shrimp prices in China. Shrimp are trucked up from Vietnam and despite the ten-hour road journey prices are lower thanks to lower labor costs. 

Vietnamese shrimp sold at RMB 29/kg (USD 4.71, EUR 3.53) (RMB 4 (USD 0.65, EUR 0.49) of that is attributed to trucking costs) in Zhanjiang this June, compared to RMB 32/kg (USD 5.20, EUR 3.89) for locally grown shrimp. Vietnamese shrimp accounts for up to 60 percent of market supply in off-season times of the year in Zhanjiang, which is home to key Chinese shrimp exporter Guolian.

A solid harvest in China is good news for shrimp importers worldwide but the news is less positive in other parts of Southeast Asia. It’s been “a disaster” in Thailand, said Chow. But while numerous shrimp processing plants have been closed in Thailand there has been a better shrimp harvest in Indonesia. 

Last year China’s shrimp processors and exporters struggled to get supply to fulfill export contracts due to a supply crunch and competition from better-paying domestic demand. Domestic competition for China’s for-export shrimp output is increasing. More than 70 percent of Chinese shrimp output goes to domestic demand but that figure is set to rise as domestic buyers are willing to pay 10 percent more than the export-processing sector.

Shrimp supply in Vietnam fell 30 percent in 2013 while Thailand shrimp supply was down 50 percent due to disease. Meanwhile Indonesia has less than a third of the shrimp crop of China, meaning supply will remain tight. Chinese shrimp farms remain blighted by long-term problems like poor quality feed and brood stocks, said Chow.

Chow worries about the use in Chinese farms of second or third generation brood stock rather than the optimal first generation brood stock imported from North America. Meanwhile continued skimping on feed (due to rising costs of fishmeal and soy) means a lower number of shrimp per kilo compared to previous years.

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