Tags: price | disease | shrimp | supply

Prices Jump as Disease Crimps Shrimp Supply

Sunday, 18 Aug 2013 05:32 PM

By Michelle Smith

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Ravaged by disease, the once-booming shrimp industry has experienced a double-digit supply contraction, pushing prices to record levels, says a report from Rabobank.

The world largest producers have seen shrimp populations ravaged by early mortality syndrome (EMS). The bacterial disease appeared in Thailand, the world's largest shrimp exporter, late last year.

EMS had already infected shrimp stocks in China in 2009 and then spread to Vietnam, The Wall Street Journal says.

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According to the United Nations, the disease poses no significant threat to human health. For shrimp, the infection is deadly and it's problematic for the shrimp industry because it can kill all affected crustaceans before they reach maturity and can reproduce, the Journal explains.

EMS has caused the largest-ever contraction in supply, says Rabobank's report titled “Shrimp in a Crimp.”

Thailand supplies about 30% of the tropical shrimp in the United States and the European Union, and is expected to see its supply cut in half this year, CNN Money reported.

Add the losses in China and Vietnam and this disease could cost Asia's shrimp industry some $1 billion a year, the Journal says the Global Aquaculture Alliance, a trade group, estimates.

The financial impact has already spread through the supply chain. At about $6 per pound, white shrimp prices are up 56% from a year ago, CNN Money reported.

Americans eat an average of four pounds of shrimp per person yearly , but Rabobank analysts think it's likely consumption will drop in 2013.

“After a decade of explosive growth, the global farmed shrimp industry has reached a turning point,” said Rabobank analyst Gorjan Nikolik.

The current shrimp supply deficit could reverse by 2014, says Rabobank.

Shrimp industry insiders hope that with the problem now identified, it can be resolved and the industry can embark on the road to recovery. But there aren't any guarantees.

Countries like India and Ecuador are trying to ramp up production to cash in on the void. But the Journal says researchers at Mahidol University in Thailand warn EMS could appear anywhere in the world, since the bacteria live in natural waters.

Meanwhile, seafood lovers may find comfort in bargain prices for lobster.

A four-ounce lobster tail costs $13.25, according to Urner Barry, a publisher specializing in agricultural markets. CNN Money says that's the lowest price in 11 years.

Warmer water has led to such an oversupply in Maine that CNN Money says the state has approved a $2 million campaign to promote its lobsters both in the U.S. and abroad.

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