Wednesday, January 24, 2018
   
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There is finally good news for American shrimpers – shortages of southeast Asia shrimp are driving up prices for all shrimp.

White shrimp prices are closing in on $7 a pound for even the smallest shrimp, according to a US Department of Commerce fish price index releasee on Friday. That's up 56 percent 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."

The problem with 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 percent 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' food spending. The 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 oil spill three years ago, welcome the opportunity to limit cheap imports and increase their 10 percent 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. 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.

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