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Expanding demand for shrimp in Europe needs imports of 270,000 metric tons.

Expanding Demand for Shrimp in Europe Needs Imports of 270,000 Metric Tons

The shrimp business in the European Community has expanded impressively during the past decade. Imports doubled to reach 270,000 metric tons in 1988, while domestic production and exports rose to 250,000 MT from 130,000 in 1981. Still, with per capita consumption at only 0.75 kilos in the EEC - compared to 1.2 kilos in the United States and 3.0 kilos in Japan - there is plenty of room for growth.

As taste preferences are different in each European country, talk of a single market for shrimp is uninformed. And fragmentation will likely remain the case even after 1992 when trade barriers are scheduled to fall. For the moment the Continent is divided into two distinct markets characterized by Mediterranean countries on one side and Northern-tier nations on the other.

Mediterranean consumers like large-sized whole raw shrimp which is generally cooked or grilled shell- and head-on. Italians prefer shellfish to be pink or red. Other colors have practically no chance of gaining market acceptance except for the Kuruma, which is a native species. In Spain, interestingly, white shrimp is quite popular.

Species-wise, Cuban-supplied warmwater shrimp is the Mediterranean favorite. There is little demand for European coldwater varieties. As a matter of fact, the only coldwater species consumed in any quantity is Pleoticus mulleri from Argentina.

For geographical reasons coldwater species have always been, and continue to be, the preferred choice in Northern Europe. However, there are some differences among countries.

In West Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium the native brown shrimp (Crangon crangon) is by far the most popular among consumers. But the disappearance of this resource has prompted purveyors to look for alternatives, which have been mainly tropical shrimp from Asia.

Pandalus Borealis plays an important role in the United Kingdom and French markets, but when prices are high the species is often substituted for by warmwater shrimp or freshwater prawns from West Africa and Asia.

While the U.K. is traditionally Europe's best customer for coldwater shrimp, the price-sensitive British are not shy about switching loyalties. Consumer reaction to sticker shock saw warmwater shrimp's market share climb from 30% of volume and 21% of value in 1985 to 51% and 37%, respectively, the following year.

Not only did Asian competitors penetrate many retail shops that previously refused to handle warmwater stocks, but the quality of coldwater species suffered as some processors added higher glaze levels. At the same time the quality of tropical species improved.

About 60% of British shrimp consumption takes place in restaurants. The retail segment is relatively strong for coldwater species, where half of all sales is realized. Warmwater varieties tend to be heavily consumed in the catering sector due to supplier's traditional links with Asian restaurants.

Early attempts to introduce black tiger (Penaeus monodon) shrimp to European buyers met with failure despite competitive pricing. But now that has changed as Thai- and Indonesian-sourced tigers are regularly brought in by EEC importers.

At present some 43% of the total EEC supply of shrimp (roughly 100,000 MT) is warmwater species. This is almost equal to the 45% share held by coldwater shrimp. Meanwhile, 12% of the supply can't be classified as it mainly represents imports from countries that process both coldwater and tropical varieties. This is roughly the same percentage as in early 1980. During the mid-80s, though, when Norwegian coldwater shrimp (Pandalus borealis) production peaked at 190,000 MT, its share exceeded 50%.

In 1988 Norway accounted for about half of the world landings of P. borealis. In the following years Greenland took the lead, but the figures for 1989 show a trend as Greenland's catch fell by 12,500 MT from 72,500 to 60,000 MT. During the same period Norwegian landings showed an increase of 16,000 MT, going from 40,000 to 56,000.

It is significant that, despite pessimistic predictions, landings of North Atlantic coldwater shrimp were not heavily reduced last year. Actually, the 4,000 MT dip was barely 2.5% below the 1988 volume.

It seems that when Norwegian catches are down, those of Greenland and Iceland are up. The latter's landings of P. borealis have tripled from 1983-86. However, as stocks started to be depleted due to overfishing, the Icelandic government set quotas, which resulted in landings of only 23,000 MT last year.

Non-EEC Business

Unlike Japan, the USA is not a major consumer of coldwater shrimp. Total imports peaked in 1985 at 12,100 MT (of which Norway supplied half), only to fall back to 4,100 in 1988.

Last year Norway exported just 44 MT to the American market. The main reason for this decrease was the price disadvantage of coldwater competition. In addition, the slowly recovering United States domestic coldwater shrimp fisheries managed to take some business away.

The Japanese market received 13,000 MT of coldwater shrimp from suppliers in Greenland during 1988. In 1989 the figures for January through September were recorded as 11,800 MT against 10,600 for the same period during the previous year, suggesting a further increase for the whole of 1989 from Greenland.

Meanwhile, Norway exported only 2,500 MT last year, which translated to a 24% reduction in volume.

PHOTO : The Pandalus borealis variety of coldwater shrimp is known for its succulence and sweet taste.
COPYRIGHT 1990 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Persson, Ole G.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jul 1, 1990
Words:897
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