Strong push by five countries helped keep US shrimp imports rolling in May
Y-O-Y importation of shrimp by the USA continues at a record pace such that it will likely reach 700,000 MT by the end of the year. Nevertheless, there are some interesting aspects. Example, The biggest beneficiary of Ecuador’s production surge has been China, not the US. Ecuador sent the communist nation 27,537t of shrimp in May, up 114% y-o-y. And, China sent the US 1,902t of shrimp worth $10.6m in May, a decrease in volume of 39% and a decrease in value of 52%. During the first five months of the year, China has sent the US 7,605t of shrimp, 54% less than the first five months of 2018. These are effects of the trade war. Another interesting observation is imports from Malaysia. It seen its shrimp exports to the US increase 669% y-o-y from 16t in May 2018 to 123t in May 2019, according to NOAA data. Notably in the past shipments from Malaysia on scale has rejected often because of contamination.
Big surges by India, Indonesia, Ecuador, Argentina and Mexico all helped US shrimp imports achieve a 6% year-on-year volume increase in the month of May, but overall value was down 2%, based on the latest seafood trade data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The 53,580 metric tons of shrimp imported by the US in May represents the third straight month of year-on-year volume increases after two months of declines.
As much as $443.7 million was spent during the month, which worked out to an average $8.26 per kilo rate, the same as in April. By comparison, the US imported 50,510t of shrimp in May 2018, spending $453.2m, or an average of $8.95/kilo.
Still, US shrimp imports have yet to make up for their slow beginning and, five months into 2019, the US has imported 248,180t, 2% less than the first five months of 2018.
The leading source of shrimp continues to be India, which sent the US 20,391t in May for $164.0m, an 11% boost in volume and 2% decrease in value year on year. In fact, though the first five months of the year, India has sent the US 95,135t, up 14% over the first five months of 2018, but received $788.1m in value, 2% less.
Also, the latest Indian customs figures, as reported by the International Trade Center, show the country exported 124,403t of shrimp overall in Q1 of 2019, up 6% compared with Q1 of 2018, and up 32% compared with Q1 of 2017.
How long that upward volume trend continues, however, remains a question. As Undercurrent News reported recently, Indian shrimp farmers have stocked their ponds with 20-30% less shrimp larvae due to depressed market prices, recent disease outbreaks and inclement weather.
Aditya Dash, managing director of Ram’s Assorted Cold Storage, a packer based in Odisha, told Undercurrent he expects a downturn in production given stockings for the first cycle of farming in Odisha, east India, were 30% lower compared with last year.
“[Last year] people lost a lot of money and we lost a lot of money because we financed the farmers,” he told Undercurrent. “We estimate stocking is down 30%, and the primary reason for that is the price and disease outbreaks, and so because of that the farmers aren’t making any money.”
Meanwhile, Indonesia, the US’ second-largest source of shrimp, had a bounce-back month, sending the US 11,772t worth $98.5m, a year-on-year 17% improvement in volume and 7% increase in value.
The upswing ended four consecutive months of year-on-year decreases in volume for Indonesia.
Ecuador still hot.
Just like in April, the US also saw an increase in shrimp import volume from Ecuador in May. The 7,718t imported represented a 12% boost in volume year on year, and the $49.3m in value was a 4% improvement.
This after a record month in April that saw Ecuador send the US 8,606t of shrimp worth $55.7m, 69% more in volume and 49% more in value than in April 2018. Based on the first five months of the year, Ecuador is now on pace to deliver 6% more shrimp in volume to the US than last year.
Ecuador’s increased shrimp shipments to the US are part of an overall trend. As reported by Undercurrent, Ecuador’s Camara Nacional de Acuacultura, or national chamber of aquaculture, recorded 251,611t of shrimp exported by Ecuador during the first five months of 2019, up 23% above the same period last year.
Though the biggest beneficiary of Ecuador’s surge has been China, not the US. Ecuador sent the communist nation 27,537t of shrimp in May, up 114% y-o-y.
Argentina’s red invasion may be fleeting (wild caught cold water shrimp)
But Ecuador wasn’t the only Latin American country to see a big boost in May. Argentina sent the US 1,316t of its shrimp worth $14.8m in May, a 41% increase in volume and value over the same month in 2018.
Don’t look for the trend to continue, however. The opening weeks of the offshore Argentine red shrimp season, which runs from June to late October each year, have been “extremely poor”, according to Canadian wholesaler Tradex Foods. Tradex reported, in a June market roundup, that only a third of the offshore fleet is currently out fishing.
Also, early research vessels have suggested there will be smaller-sized shrimp than usual at the start of the offshore season, while some areas exhibiting overly small shrimp have been closed for fishing, pending further review.
Argentina’s inshore fishing season, which ran from January to May, reportedly produced 58,000t, marginally down on last year’s haul of 60,000t.
Another Latin American country that saw its shrimp exports to the US multiply in May was Mexico. It sent the US 969t of shrimp worth $11.2m, a 107% increase in volume and 120% jump in value.
The spike is no doubt tied at least somewhat to earlier fear that US president Donald Trump was going to hit Mexico with a series of escalating tariffs, a situation that seems to have been abated for now.
Mexico is currently pacing to have a strong year of shrimp exports to the US, sending it 9,879t over the first five months of 2019, 33% ahead of the 2018 pace.
Shrimp from China cut in half (U.S. Tariffs)
One of the countries that hasn’t escaped Trump’s trade attacks, however, is China, where mostly breaded, frozen shrimp exports to the US have faded considerably due to ongoing tariffs. It sent the US 1,902t of shrimp worth $10.6m in May, a decrease in volume of 39% and a decrease in value of 52%.
During the first five months of the year, China has sent the US 7,605t of shrimp, 54% less than the first five months of 2018.
On June 26, more than 350 days into the trade war, the US and China announced that they had agreed to a tentative truce in advance of additional trade talks in Osaka, Japan, and several media reports suggested Trump would propose another deadline of six months before further escalating tariffs.
Also, sources tell Undercurrent that there are many US importers that will continue to pursue China as their source for breaded, frozen shrimp even if 25% tariffs continue on, as the alternatives are currently somewhat limited.
Malaysia, meanwhile, has interestingly seen its shrimp exports to the US increase 669% y-o-y from 16t in May 2018 to 123t in May 2019, according to NOAA data.