Vietnam remained the biggest market for Ecuadorian shrimp in the first half of 2018, but direct sales to China rocketed and overtook the country’s shipments to the U.S., according to data from the country’s national aquaculture chamber, known by the initials CNA.
This growth comes as weaker global prices present a “challenging situation,” the executive president of CNA, Jose Antonio Camposano, told Undercurrent News.
Ecuador, the world’s second-largest producer of shrimp, has continued to grow its production this year, reaching record output in recent months, Camposano said.
In the first six months of this year, the Latin American country’s shrimp exports rose 14% year-on-year in value to $1.58 billion and 19% in volume to 538,799 million pounds (244,395 metric tons), according to CNA figures.
Shipments reached a historical record level above 100 million pounds (45,359 tons) in April and May and remained above average in June, with 90 million pounds exported during the month, Camposano said.
The growth in direct shrimp exports to China was the main driver behind higher total exports, CNA figures show.
During the period, Ecuadorean shrimp exports to China grew 352% year-over-year in value to $277.3 million and 390% in volume to 95.06 million pounds, although they remain much below shipments to Vietnam, which are also partly driven by Chinese demand.
Exports to Vietnam increased 3% in volume to 232 million pounds but dropped 1% in value to $656.7 million during the first six months of 2018, after having surpassed $1 billion in 2017.
Ecuador is the biggest supplier to Vietnam, shipping 201,562 tons in 2017, up 34% year-over-year. The value of Ecuador’s sales was $1.29 billion, up 32% year-over-year.
It’s an open secret in the seafood sector that shrimp is shipped to Hai Phong, a port in the north of Vietnam, then taken across the border by Chinese smugglers.
Exports to the U.S. decreased both in volume and value during the period, while shipments to the EU rose both in volume and value. U.S. exports were down 11% in value to $220.6 million and 9% in volume to 73.8 million pounds during the period, while total EU exports were up 6% in value to $364.3 million and 10% in volume to 116.5 million pounds.
Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark, and Ireland were the European countries that registered a higher increase in Ecuadorean shrimp exports during the period.
Asian exports, including Vietnam and China but also other South-East Asian markets, accounted for 62% of total Ecuadorean shrimp exports during the period.