Fighting low prices, Gulf shrimpers urged to market directly to buyers

Louisiana shrimpers are being advised to sell more shrimp directly to buyers in order to increase their dockside premium, but that’s not a feasible option for many, an industry expert said.

While wild Gulf shrimp prices are very low at the dock, they fetch premium prices for retailers and restaurants, “leaving local shrimpers struggling to make ends meet,” according to a statement from Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL), which commissioned a new report on shrimp prices.

The report, produced by Datu Research with funding from the National Wildlife Federation, found that shrimpers are likely to receive between USD 1.00 (EUR 0.96) and USD 2.00 (EUR 1.92) per pound at the dock for wild Louisiana shrimp, even though the popular shellfish is on menus for as much as USD 28 (EUR 26.93) per pound, and can sell at retail for USD 9 (EUR 8.66) per pound and higher.

While Louisiana shrimpers landed 107.7 million pounds in 2014 – the highest of any state in the United States – around 90 percent of shrimp consumed in the country is imported.

“Increased global supply has put downward pressure on world shrimp prices. Chain restaurants, which are among the largest domestic buyers of shrimp, seem to prefer imports because of their competitive price, their relatively consistent supply and the range of processed product options coming out of the sophisticated processing facilities of exporting countries,” the report found.

One of the key recommendations of the report is that shrimpers should market their product directly to consumers and high-end restaurants, while telling the story of their fishing and handling methods.

"The value chain is a complex system that does contain several opportunities for shrimpers to capture a larger share of the value, including marketing directly to restaurants," said Datu Research CEO Marcy Lowe.

While the American Shrimp Processors Association, based in Biloxi, Mississippi, would like to see higher dockside shrimp prices and more direct selling relationships, that is not realistic for many shrimpers and processors, C. David Veal, executive director of ASPA, told SeafoodSource.

“For those who can make it work, it is certainly worthwhile. But I don’t know of any industry of renewable or natural resources that sells the majority of its product directly to the consumer,” Veal said. “You have to deal with the marketing chain that exists. Very few domestic shrimp are sold on contracts; they are sold on the spot market.”

However, at least one shrimper, Lance Nacio, owner of Anna Marie Seafood in Dulac, Louisiana, has succeeded in boosting profitability by selling directly to buyers.

“I’ve really tried to expand my market beyond just being a local commodity to my community. I’ve used modern technology to reach out to people who might not have fresh, wild caught shrimp as easily accessible as we do here in the Gulf Coast region,” Nacio said.

Nacio flash-freezes the shrimp on his boat and sells them for a premium to retailers and restaurants in California and other states.

“It’s so important that we are open to change,” said Jim Gossen, chairman of Sysco Louisiana Seafood. “[The industry] has been stuck on doing the same thing over and over for years. We have to be open to marketing things differently.”


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