Global Shrimp prices are skyrocketing to all-time highs, amid a disease that's plaguing the three largest prawn producers: Thailand, China and Vietnam and in our region Mexico. The reason behind the global shortage is due to the early mortality syndrome (EMS) spread in aquaculture farms and has its implications to prices. That is the situation here in Belize. Reporter Maria Novelo explored that issue and filed this comprehensive report.

Maria Novelo – Reporting

Retailers are resisting what is evidently a significant price increase of shrimp and as a result, the local market here in Belize is seeing a reflective shortage of this Cadillac crustacean. While there are seven registered shrimp farms in the country, four of them have an export processing zone status solely for the export market. The other three growers sell on a local level but most of their production gets exported to overseas markets as well. And while the global shortage remains Belize plays a significant role in filling that global demand. According to Secretary of the Belize Shrimp Association, Alvin Henderson, the global shortage is to be blamed for the sky rocketing price and there is no reprieve in sight.

ALVIN HENDERSON – SECRETARY, BELIZE SHRIMP GROWERS ASSOCIATION

“Perhaps what you are experiencing there is a push back; people are resisting what is evidently and significantly a price increase.  Now I will tell you speaking with some of them that the prices that they sale products locally is not the price that they started for when they exported, the local market is actually not feeling the full grunt of this price increase, the local market is actually receiving a price that is on a concession at a lower cost, so you understand the opportunity cost for the farmer, the farmer sale the product to the local market that it can actually exported for, I will give you a good example, I was speaking with Paradise just this morning and the matter that they had some product for, I needed some product for Jamaica and they told me that they had the product but they are unable to sale it to me because they are keeping it for the local market now that was admirable and the moment they told me that I told them I wasn’t interested in getting the product then I did not know that they were holding the product for the local market so there is no reason why people should have difficulty buying the shrimp, the issue I think they have might be affecting everybody here is that there are some resistance to the price because the price has gone up dramatically, the global shortage remains, I am saying something in the US market which I’ve been in this business for fourteen years and I have never seen this before, this is just the month of January and the prices in the US are already increasing it is the shortest time to me that the US is short in inventory which means that the prices can go even higher.”

Many retailers we spoke to here in Orange Walk have expressed their concern, most fear that the price increase is causing trickling effects.

Nellie Briceno – Owner, NS & J’s

“Well, it all depends on the size of the shrimps because if it is medium size it is different price and then if it is the big jumbo one still have a different price as well but it went for a $1.50 more.”

Maria Novelo – Reporter

“So you use to pay wholesale what, $9.00 for it?”

Nellie Briceno - Owner, NS & J's

“It would range from about $7.00 the medium size at $9.00 the wholesale price.”

Maria Novelo – Reporter

“Is that what you are paying right now?”

Nellie Briceno - Owner, NS & J's

“Yes, there is a guy that comes from Belize City, I don’t know what his name is but I use to get from Nettos but they just have a limited amount and a lot of persons come to sell too.”

Maria Novelo – Reporter

“Is it affecting your business in terms of people asking for it and you don’t have it?”

Nellie Briceno - Owner, NS & J's

“Definitely because for the Christmas season we didn’t had enough to supply them”

Maria Novelo – Reporter

“Were you aware that there was a shortage of shrimp globally?”

Nellie Briceno - Owner, NS & J's 

“Well, globally not really but here in Belize I know we did have a shortage.”

CTV3 News spoke with a representative from the Paradise Growers in Dangriga, who last year had a production of 2.7million pounds of the crustacean.  And while they have a consistent supply of shrimp, they also are trying to contain the pricing on the local market substantially, but retailers are facing difficulty adjusting to the price hike.

Paradise

“Even the price gone up to two or two fifty dollars up than last two years, you know, shortage because a lot of people call me for the smaller shrimp and we don’t harvest the small shrimp, just keeping the local market going because we only harvest for Mexican and whenever we have left overs we just give away like give for the cheap prices and then they are looking for that one but I don’t have that on stock for right now whenever we have couple pounds it immediately goes the same day.”

Maria Novelo –Reporter

“Are you saying that Mexico is your biggest purchaser?”

 Paradise

“Yes, all over Belize and Mexico is my biggest purchaser, they are raising price every week actually, that is why even we don’t raise like that because we understand locally this is small we try to help the Belize market and sometime I am sure they are giving a dollar less than the Mexican market.  I tell them you want sale I harvest for them but you give me a cliff compare to the Mexican market I can supply with the small shrimp, the bigger shrimp they can give and I am giving the bigger shrimp selling the international market are not fifty cents US less still in the local market but people and the international prices market gone up because Thailand is a highest producer in the world and we can’t do anything if prices are going up internationally.”

Other adverse effects of the shrimp availability says Henderson, is that middle men are getting involved in the trade.

ALVIN HENDERSON – SECRETARY, BELIZE SHRIMP GROWERS ASSOCIATION

“Even if the farmers contain the price and sale the product at a lower price in the local market, it does not prevent middle men or middle people from getting involve in the trade when they know that there is a shortage and high up in the price.  I am sitting on my desk for an hour this morning and I gotten three calls for shrimps and this is very unusual to me because most people know that they don’t sale locally  so what I think is the problem are the middle men and I think off the cuff they are saying to me something to me is wrong, I know that the farms have products to sale, I am sure Paradise has for example, but what I think what might be happening is that people are also aware that there is a shortage and there are people entering the trade and they are trying to mark up the price even further, I think that is what it might be happening here.”

And while there is no price ease anytime soon due to international rising costs and demands, retailers and consumers will just have to take the brunt of the blow by consuming less or paying more for this seafood delicacy. Maria Novelo for Ctv3 News!

According to Henderson, the largest share of shrimp from growers is exported to Mexico. The hard currency earnings from shrimp for the country will be up dramatically this year, which means significant employment and continued demand from Belize to global markets.

CTV3