Experts anticipate up to 30% reduction in 2020 Indian shrimp output: Undercurrentnews

Dan Gibson: UnderCurrentNews

Although shrimp stocking has resumed in India over the past month, industry experts are in agreement that the country can expect a drop in production volume by 20-30% in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jim Gulkin, CEO of frozen seafood supplier Siam Canadian Group, told Undercurrent News he expects India to have improved production starting late August into September, but for total annual production to be down by 20%. He estimated a final figure of 450,000-525,000 metric tons.

He attributed the decline to “both COVID disruption and farmers reluctant to seed earlier in the year due to concerns about market prices and falling demand”.

“Prices previously moved up as a result of new orders on the books for many packers and lack of raw material but do not seem to be moving up further at this time,” Gulkin told Undercurrent. “Seeding continues, especially in Andhra Pradesh.”

Gulkin’s view was shared by Durai Murugan, the owner of shrimp farmer Sea Gem Aqua Farms.

“Production is definitely dropping due to so many constraints with labor and lockdown uncertainty due to COVID situation,” Murugan told Undercurrent. “My analysis on pond stocking production [is that it is] likely to drop more than 20% this year — many farmers converted their shrimp farms to fish farming.”

Aquaconnect founder Rajamanohar Somasundaram agreed that a drop in 20-30% is likely from the peak of nearly 770,000t of shrimp produced by India in 2019, estimating volumes in the range of 550,000t-600,000t this year. “Still, the production depends majorly on the winter stock cropping percentage.”

Rajamanohar told Undercurrent that Aquaconnect, one of India’s earliest pioneers of aquatech in shrimp farming, had seen a reduced stocking density in peak production areas across the country to avoid disease occurrences. In Gujarat, farms have been stocking with a density of 15-25 shrimps per square meter, while even farms in the largest shrimp-farming region — Andhra Pradesh — have been stocking with a reduced density of 35-50 shrimp per square meter.

“Market prices are keeping stability over the last couple of weeks, and smaller counts even have better market value compared to before the pandemic,” Rajamanohar said. “This is one of the highly motivating factors for farmers to stock their ponds.”

Aditya Dash, the owner of Ram’s Assorted Cold Storage, confirmed to Undercurrent that there had been at minimum a 20% drop in production across the country, while some farming regions such as West Bengal and Odisha are likely to see a drop by more than 50% year-on-year.

That’s not to say that these predictions are certain; last year many, including the governing Marine Products Export Development Authority, expected production to drop by 20-25% relative to 2018.

Indeed, 2019’s Global Outlook in Aquaculture Leadership conference, held last October in Chennai, India, predicted production volumes for both 2019 and 2020 to remain flat at around 600,000t.

In reality, vannamei production marginally increased from 680,000t to 710,000t, while volumes of black tiger shrimp remained steady at approximately 60,000t (below).

Previously, speaking on a panel at an Infofish webinar held in May, Gulkin raised concerns that there would not be sufficient global demand to handle 500,000t if India does indeed manage to produce volumes of that magnitude this year.

“If Indian production reaches 500,000t, there is a risk of overproduction in the market,” Gulkin said at the time. “If we do have 70-80% of Indian farmers stocking, we end up with 500,000t and Indonesia somewhat similar, then I think come the end of the year we’re going to have an oversupply situation globally and a very weak market. But if farmers decide to be conservative and hold back, then it could be fairly stable.”

Speaking on the same panel, Fatima Ferdouse, a Malaysia-based fisheries consultant for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, was of a similar opinion.

“We’ve got to look at the overall production scenario in terms of supply, demand and price,” she said. “If production is going to be almost the same or 20-30% less than last year, it’s going to be a lot compared to the horeca [hotels, restaurants and catering] sector’s shortfall. Even if it recovers by 20% or so there will still be a serious drop, and I don’t know if retail can make up that difference.”

Siam Canadian Group Frozen Seafood Exporters 

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