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From a luxury food to a commodity: aquaculture's big impact on shrimp; increased supply from farms has kept prices down for wild shrimp, and changed consumption patterns in USA, Japan and Europe.

If there'd never been any shrimp farms, the people of the world might still be eating as much wild shrimp as they're eating today anyway, but paying 70% more for it, according to William D. Chauvin, president of Shrimp World, Inc.

So much attention has been focused on the 30% of the world shrimp market supplied by farms that nobody seems to be paying any attention to the 70% that is still harvested in the traditional manner, Chauvin told delegates attending the International Seafood Conference in Lisbon. Yet there are important developments in the traditional sector.

Take coldwater shrimp, for example. Long popular in northern Europe, it is gaining in Japan, where imports increased from 10,232 tons in 1984 to 31,158 in 1991. "Evidently the Japanese have discovered that the pink coldwater shrimp, known there as aki ebi (sweet shrimp), contributes to a better presentation at sushi bars," he said. "Customers appreciate the sweet/mild taste, and these shrimp do not have to be par-boiled, as do some others to be used as sushi."

Greenland is the largest supplier of coldwater shrimp in Japan; others include Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Canada. Japan imported 124,780 tons of all kinds of shrimp back in 1977; in 1991, the total was 284,493. Besides the increase in volume, there has been a change in the pattern of imports - most of the imports used to be in whites and browns, but black tigers (a popular farmed species) are now a major factor; Mexico used to be a major supplier, but has dropped out of the running, and Greenland now ranks seventh as a supplier thanks to the interest in coldwater shrimp.

United States imports increased from 103,428 tons in 1977 to 244,758 in 1991, with Ecuador replacing Mexico as the largest supplier. "But, considering the domestic production, the naturally-produced supply is also holding steady at around the same level as before cultured shrimp became a factor," Chauvin observed, except for the loss of pandalids from Alaska that used to account for 65,000 tons a year. Worldwide, the natural harvest hit a peak of 1.947 million tons in 1986, but was still a strong 1.841 million in 1990; during the same period, farmed production went from 339,000 to 686,000. Overall supply continued to increase steadily, at least through 1990. Although the natural supply may have peaked worldwide, it could still be augmented in some countries, including Mexico, Greenland, China and even Nigeria (the last has just ordered 15 shrimp trawlers).

But what is the bottom line, "what has happened to the overall market since the arrival of cultured shrimp?" Stable prices is what. Citing a study by Dr. Kenneth Roberts and Dr. Walter Keithly at Louisiana State University, Chauvin said that constant dollar prices for shrimp has held steady in both Japan and the United States since 1977 (yen prices fell in Japan beginning in the early 1980s because of the yen strengthening against the dollar). "Using an econometric simultaneous-equations model, the L.S.U. economists also conclude that without the additional supply of aquaculture production, U.S. import prices in 1988 and 1989 would have been around 70% higher," he said.

Depressed prices have made it tough on fishermen and shrimp farmers alike, but - until recently, at least - they have been a boon to consumers. "In many areas of the U.S., shrimp had been considered a luxury item and utilized by some only during special events or holiday periods. That is rapidly changing. This is happening in Japan as well, where there are many more types of shrimp preparations being offered to the consumer. In Europe, with the greater acceptance of tropical and especially cultured shrimp, we note that there is also a broadening of the consumer base." Lately, however, the recession and an upsurge of prices on an artificial market have led to a downturn in consumption. But this is a temporary setback; in the long run, shrimp will be a good buy - as long as the supply is there: "We no longer enjoy the luxury of having a luxury item. Shrimp is a commodity that should be promoted as one."

Although Japan, the U.S. and Europe are still seen as "the" markets, Chauvin warned that this is no longer the case. China consumes about half its production, and other Asian countries - notably Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan - have become or are becoming net importers. Korea, where per capita consumption of seafood is 47 kilograms a year, is lifting shrimp import quotas next year and can be expected to be a major importer after that. "In general, economic growth and increased shrimp consumption will go hand in hand," he said. "Asia is becoming a formidable market."

Among Chauvin's other observations were that Spain leads the way in increased shrimp consumption in Europe from 800 grams per capita in 1982 to two kilograms in 1990), and that Cultured black tigers have gained acceptance in all European countries as overall EEC imports have grown 132,000 tons in 1981 to 365,000 in 1991 (In Italy, restaurateurs had to be convinced by cooking demonstrations showing that black tigers indeed turned pink). Meanwhile, sources have shifted - France used to derive 35% of its imports from West Africa; now it's only 12%.

Future Prospects

Pollution and coastal development as well as government regulation are curtailing the shrimp harvest on the U.S. Gulf coast, he said. but the harvest in Mexico could increase substantially if only the government there can get its policy act together. The potential is also strong for improved harvest by China and West African countries, he added. Still, most of the future growth will be in farmed shrimp, as long as the industry can improve its technology and avoid setbacks like the viral-environmental disaster in Taiwan (That disaster inadvertently led to another problem in Thailand, where farmers overdosed their shrimp with anti-biotics and almost lost the Japanese market). India and Indonesia have the greatest potential for further development of shrimp farms, according to Chauvin; in the Western hemisphere, Colombia and Mexico are good possibilities.

York Expertise Helps Build

New Chinese Shrimp Plant

A highly customized refrigeration and freezing system for a shrimp processing factory near Shenzhen, China, has come on line. The 50,000-square-foot facility, which processes raw and cooked black tiger prawns for export to western markets, is said to be one of the most technologically advanced plants of its kind.

York International Corp. provided its services and equipment on a turnkey basis to the packer, Shenzhen Allied Aquatic Development, Ltd., under a contract valued at US$ 1.2 million.

"What's interesting was the international cooperation involved in completing the project," remarked Terry Barber, president of Seattle, Washington-based York Food Systems, which was one several York entities involved in the deal.

"The China project was sold by the York Singapore office, engineered by the Auckland., New Zealand arm of York Food Systems, with the equipment manufactured in the United States and Australia," advised Barber.

The main refrigeration/freezing components include four ammonia screw compressors; two evaporative condensers, 17 low-temperature refrigeration coils; an IQF tunnel and accessories, with capacity of over 1,100 pounds per hour; three horizontal plate freezers, each capable of hourly output exceeding 2,200 pounds; one plate heat exchanger, and various other ice-making and cold storage equipment.

At full throttle, the Shenzhen plant will be able to process 66,000 pounds of shrimp per day, contributing to China's position as a leading shrimp exporter.
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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Previous Article:15th International Seafood Conference finds industry plying unsettled waters.
Next Article:World output of cultured shrimp falls, but at 721,000 tons accounts for 28%.

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