GOAL panelists: EU blanket ban on Indian shrimp wouldn’t be good for markets

Published on
October 13, 2017
India shrimp

If the European Union were to implement an import ban on Indian shrimp products, as is now widely being contemplated by the supply chain, seafood buyers believe it is likely that the repercussions will be felt in other major shrimp markets.

India was the world’s No. 1 exporter of shrimp last year with the total volume produced by the country increasing to 434,484 metric tons (MT). The volume available for export in 2017 is forecast to have risen further still with an expected harvest of around 600,000 MT valued at USD 6 billion (EUR 5.1 billion), delegates heard at the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) GOAL 2017 conference in Dublin, Ireland.

However, there have been strong concerns this past year that the E.U. – India’s third largest market for its shrimp – could place a ban on imports amid product contamination concerns. Since late 2016, the E.U. Veterinary Authority has increased the mandatory quality checks place on Indian farmed shrimp from 10 to 50 percent on what equates to 80,000 MT of imports. 

To date only 13 positive cases of antibiotics have been found, confirmed GAA, and yet Will Rash, managing director of The Big Prawn Co., one of the major seafood brands in the United Kingdom, stressed that “the E.U. will do what it feels it needs to do,” and efforts by exporters and importers to sway the decision will ultimately be fruitless.

“Therefore, the only sensible approach is to assume that it might happen,” Rash said. “Any sensible importing business will recognize that risk and start to take precautions, and that is ultimately what Big Prawn has done; we’re taking precautions to remove ourselves from our dependency on that country.”

Rash told the conference that while the debate over whether to ban or not to ban Indian shrimp goes on, it isn‘t doing any good to the industry. 

“We are actually starting to receive notices from customers telling us to move out of India,” he said. “I’m thinking, my product does get tested and it is O.K.; there’s nothing wrong with it. Yet we are being told to leave it because of the debate that is going on in the background.

Rash warned against generalizations being made about Indian shrimp.

"We are falling into the blanket scenario that everything from that country is contaminated and that is bad for everyone,” said Rash.

If Brussels does indeed implement a ban on imports of Indian shrimp, there are expectations that U.S. authorities could follow suit.

Taking part in a panel discussion at GOAL, Bob Yudovin, national seafood buyer at Harvest Meat Co. and Sherwood Foods, one of the United States’ largest independent food distributors, said he was concerned that it could happen because the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a history of such “kneejerk reactions” with other species.

“If the U.S. FDA decides to align itself with the E.U., which is what it’s threatening to do, we will have a really serious problem,” he said

With the United States importing 50 percent of India’s exported shrimp, Eric Buckner, senior director of seafood at Sysco Corp., acknowledged that any form of refusal would have an impact on the market. He stressed that it is therefore essential that the governments of both India and the United States step up their engagement so that the situation doesn’t escalate to the level that it is in Europe.

Also on the panel, Steve Disko, seafood category manager for Schnucks Markets Inc., said he didn’t believe that the United States would follow the E.U. if it banned imports of Indian shrimp. 

“I’m sure that if the E.U. bans Indian shrimp it will raise a few flags but I think the American consumer still has faith in the FDA’s inspection system. I think that will rationalize things,” he said.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500