SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Michael Ramsingh – December 14, 2015

Ecuador’s shrimp exports to Asian markets—mostly to China—are up sharply in 2015.  Ecuador producers have long had an incentive and preference to sell head on shrimp.  This trend continues to squeeze the US market share for Ecuadorian product

As of November, Ecuador’s shrimp exports to all Asian markets were 278 million pounds. The figure is up 110 million pounds compared to shipments at this time last year– a 65 percent increase. Most of the shipments are bound for the Chinese market.

Ecuador’s sales to Asia now represent 42.5 percent of their overall exports to major markets this year. The EU and US are second and third, accounting for 30 and 23.7 percent of Ecuador’s shrimp exports, respectively.

Ecuador has traditionally produced far more head-on shrimp to keep labor costs down and maintain better yields.  Recently China has been paying a premium for Ecuador shrimp, making sales to other markets almost non-competitive.  In other words, China demand gets filled first, and what goes to the US is left over.  The EU also purchases head on shrimp from Ecuador, but their demand is weak due to economic conditions.

The advantages to producers of head-on shrimp production was increased this year with the passage of a higher minimum wage for shrimp processing workers.

Chinese and EU buyers generally import head-on shrimp.  Such shrimp is also used for reprocessing in China.

Another factor is Ecuador’s tendency to produce more 41 and smaller count sized shrimp. The product commands a higher market price in China than in the US.

The US market prefers larger shrimp.   For example, in October 2014, there were three times as much volume of large shrimp, ie 21-25 and bigger, than there were smaller shrimp, i.e. 41’s and 61’s.

Bottom line is the US share of Ecuador’s shrimp exports continues to wane, with the bulk of sales now bound for the Asian market.