La. fishermen may tie up due to low early-season shrimp prices

Published on
May 22, 2015

After near-record high prices for Louisiana shrimp last season, the season that started a week ago, 18 May, is thus far the exact opposite.

“Prices are down about 30 percent this year,” said Tommy Lusco, owner of Baton Rouge Shrimp Company in Baton Rouge, La. “The inventory last year was higher than normal and, all during the off-season, the boats outside state waters were picking up shrimp and coming in at a less expensive price. That kind of set a new price at the docks.”

“The recovery from EMS (early mortality syndrome) on foreign aquaculture has sent a flood of imports into the U.S. Coupled with some processors still holding on to higher-priced inventory, it has created record low dockside prices for fishermen this year,” said Lance Nacio, owner of Anna Maria Seafood.

While his company is not as impacted by the low dock prices, since Nacio has built a premium market for its shrimp, he is worried about other shrimpers. “Fishermen are going to take the biggest beating. In the next week, I foresee them tying up their boats. It’s not a good situation,” Nacio said.

The 31/35s that were priced at USD 1.25 (EUR 1.12) a pound ex-vessel last year have dropped to around USD 1.10 (EUR .99) a pound, buyers report. “Prices dropped 20 cents a pound in the last week and the season just opened,” Lusco said. Some retailers report strong wholesale prices at around USD 4 (EUR 3.60) to USD 4.25 (EUR 3.82) a pound to 10/15s and 15/20s, but buyers expect prices to drop another USD 1 to USD 2 per pound over the next week.Supply, on the other hand, is coming in fairly strong.

“The big shrimp are down probably 40 percent, but the smaller and medium-sized shrimp are running average or better,” Lusco said.

The positive side effect of lower prices is anticipated increased domestic sales, according to Lusco. “It helps us compete against imports. Imports coming in at lower prices all the time.”

Despite the popularity of farmed, imported shrimp, suppliers report strong demand for wild American shrimp. “People are becoming more aware and health-conscious. They don’t want to put antibiotics and chemicals in their kids,” Lusco said.

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