Winrep exec says Ecuador can beat India in US shrimp market
India was top of mind for the representatives of the Ecuadorian shrimp producers present at the recent Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Massachusetts.
The delegation made a splash with the announcement of the creation of the Sustainable Shrimp Partnership, a new certification designed to differentiate Ecuadorian product - especially from Indian shrimp - in the marketplace.
“Up until this point, the shrimp sector has been a commodity market, and quality has often taken a back seat to prices,” National Chamber of Aquaculture from Ecuador President José Antonio Camposano said at the launch of the SSP.
Shrimp is a huge part of Ecuador's seafood export market, with the country selling USD 557 million (EUR 453.4 million) to the United States alone in 2017. Karina Amaluisa, Ecuador’s trade commissioner in the Trade Office of Ecuador in New York, told SeafoodSource that India, which has become the largest exporter of shrimp to the United States, is looked at as the biggest competition for Ecuadorian shrimp in the U.S.
“Competitors from Asia, chiefly India, present a product that is slightly less expensive, but they don’t have the quality of Ecuadorian shrimp,” Amaluisa told SeafoodSource. “The sector is seeking to promote this certification, because many of our companies have already implemented innovations related to traceability, quality control, and the elimination of the use of antibiotics, and we think that provides us a competitive advantage.”
In an interview with SeafoodSource, Rafael Toro Guzman, the sales manager for Winrep, a Guayaquil-based seafood firm primarily involved in the export of frozen shrimp, said he thinks Ecuador can compete with India and other Asian countries if it manages to convince the market the its product is better.
“Obviously, price is always going to be important, but the market is changing so that the quality of the product now matters more,” Guzman said. “We are competing with India and we think that [shift] will give us an edge.”
New competitors in the marketplace and more competition between existing producers has undercut prices lately, Guzman said.
“In the previous months, the price has dropped a lot,” he said. “Now it’s recovering, but it’s not at the same level was before.”
Despite the challenging market conditions, business has been good for Winrep – it just bought a new plant in Guayaquil that will allow it to double its capacity to 3,200 metric tons of production annually. All of Winrep’s shrimp is sold frozen, and the new plant will be equipped with two IQF tunnels that will allow it to freeze 1,800 pounds of shrimp per hour.
“It’s a good problem to have, but we have a lot of customers we have to turn away , because we don’t have the capacity,” Guzman said. “The new plant is a step forward that’s going to allow us to be able to service that business.”
Even with business being solid currently, Guzman said both is company and the Ecuadorian shrimp industry as a whole are trying to be proactive in differentiating themselves in the U.S. market. Being geographically closer is one plus that Guzman mentions to his American clients – it takes about nine days to ship shrimp from Ecuador to the U.S., while from Asia, it’s an average 50-day trip, he said.
But the biggest factor that Guzman said he believes Ecuadorian shrimp sellers must emphasize is quality.
“I think we can compete with India, but the key is, our product needs to look better and taste better,” he said. “We need to keep the focus on quality, because thankfully, we have a very good product.”