Shrimp prices are soaring as shortage grows

With a disease wrecking Asian production, Gulf Coast shrimpers see an opening to get back in the game.

By Jason Notte Aug 16, 2013 4:10PM
Shrimp skewers (© antares71/E+/Getty Images)The days when shrimp's price was a slight as the prawns themselves are ending.

White shrimp price are closing in on $6 a pound, according to an Urner Barry Index. That's up 56% from a year ago and is creating an "acute shrimp shortage" -- the worst of its kind since the beginning of industrial shrimp farming -- according to a report from Rabobank analysts titled "Shrimp in a crimp."

If you're prone to bashing Asian producers every time a food-related shock hits the market, take a few seconds to choke up on your blunt object of choice before swinging away. The problem indeed rests squarely with the shrimp provided by China, Thailand and Vietnam, where disease has decimated supply.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Commerce Department ruled Tuesday that China, Ecuador, India, Malaysia and Vietnam have all unfairly subsidized shrimp exported to the U.S., and it may slap duties on shrimp from those countries, which would also raise prices.

Just to offer some perspective on how much all of this matters, Thailand alone accounts for 30% of all shrimp consumed in the U.S. Seafood -- all-you-can-eat shrimp in particular -- accounts for a quarter of Red Lobster parent company Darden Restaurants' (DRI) food spending. The already embattled company noted in June that "shrimp supply disruptions" could cut into sales.

That said, less shrimp isn't necessarily bad news all around. Shrimpers along the Gulf Coast, still reeling from the effects of the BP (BP) oil spill three years ago, welcome the opportunity to limit cheap imports and increase their 10% U.S. market share. Also, as Darden and Maine lobstermen are aware, lobster prices have taken a dive recently.

The average 4 oz. lobster tail cost $13.25, according to Urner Barry. That's still more than the cost of 2 pounds of shrimp, but it's the lowest price in 11 years. Warmer water and fewer predators are boosting lobster numbers to the point that Maine recently approved a $2 million campaign to promote its lobsters both in the U.S. and abroad.

Cheap shrimp are scarce, but at least that's good news for America's struggling Gulf Coast shrimpers.

More on moneyNOW

Aug 16, 2013 5:52PM
must be a scam going on..there is no shortage just higher tariiff.
Aug 18, 2013 9:03AM
Probably would not have happened if our illustrious government had not allowed China and the rest of the world to price fix our shrimp industry and canneries out of existence (at least on the East coast) and now the price of shrimp along with every other seafood that should be bountiful in our waters isn't fished because our industries have been run out of business. Go to Sneads Ferry NC and see for yourself, there might be one shrimping outfit left, maybe, where was the last Tuna cannery  that just shut down after being in business for ever, I guess Maine, free trade, yep, free for everyone except America. In reality, it was/is the intent to drag our wages down to third world status, and I think after thirty years, that's about where we have ended up. 
Aug 16, 2013 6:13PM
I'd rather pay more for wild caught shrimp! Farm raised doesn't have the nice natural flavor!! When the prices go up,there will be plenty of shrimp!!
Aug 18, 2013 10:26AM

Bacon went way up because of the 15 states where pigs are dying and now shrimp.What`s

left to eat?

Aug 19, 2013 9:48AM

Shrimp shortage?

Not down here for the Gulf States.   lol

Aug 19, 2013 9:30AM
Where is Bubba Gump Shrimp when you need them?
Aug 19, 2013 10:23AM
When is there not a shortage(real or fake) of something to raise the prices to line someone's pockets.  Whether it is shrimp, lettuce, gas, etc. it is basically the norm for business.  Get used to it or move to a deserted island & live off the land or sea.
Aug 19, 2013 8:54AM

Last year while up in Maine ... we got lobster for $2.25 lb off the boat !!


Aug 17, 2013 8:29PM

Real tired of hearing about the poor lazy bastards in the Gulf, sitting back on their fat azzes drinking sweet tea....And still sucking BP for all it's worth....

Get to work scumbags....If you are shrimping....You are not one of them, just a crook.


Our "hometown" Grocery store is having a 3-day sale on 4oz. Maine, cold water Lobster tails,

FOR $3.99 ...EACH !!......this week only.

This article needs better research.....Jason N.


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