Some Louisiana shrimpers could be forced out of business as shrimp prices continue to drop and Asian shrimp continue to flood the U.S. market, according to recent reports by Reuters and Bloomberg.
Gulf shrimpers are reeling: their catch accounts for less than 10% of the domestic market, their shrimp are currently selling for about 75 cents per pound off the dock and the market continues to be flooded by pond-raised shrimp from Vietnam, India and Indonesia.
“If something doesn’t change and prices don’t rise, fishermen cannot continue to work for these prices,” Louisiana Shrimp Association President Clint Guidry tells Bloomberg, adding many Gulf fishermen cannot maintain their boats or sustain themselves in the offseason because of the low prices.
Reuters reports the proverbial nail in the coffin for some shrimpers could come with the passage of President Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade agreement with several Asian and South American countries that could increase the amount of Asian shrimp that hits American markets.
“Any time we have been competing on an unfair playing ground, we can’t win, fishermen can’t win,” Rocky Ditcharo, a shrimp dock owner in Buras, tells Reuters in a video report.
A shrimper at the Dean Blanchard Seafood Dock in Grand Isle tells Reuters the money he makes on his catches these days only pays for the gas for his boat. He says he could be forced to sell the boat if prices continue to drop.
Today’s market is a stark contrast to two decades ago when shrimp was a marquee item on restaurant menus. But technological increases in aqua-farming and foreign shrimp beginning to wiggle into American markets in the early 2000s has led to the glut of shrimp that has caused the price to plummet.
“This year, we’ve had so much shrimp,” says Angel Rubio, chief market analyst at the research company Urner Barry, which tracks food costs. With global output continuing to rise, “there’s just no way prices are not going to go down,” he says.