January 28, 2008


Thailand's shrimp exporters to seek alternative markets


An industry expert advises Thai shrimp producers to seek new market opportunities, as a slow US economy will shrink Thailand's shrimp exports.


According to Niwat Sutemechaikul, deputy director-general of the Fisheries Department, the US accounted for 61 percent of the 300,000 tonnes of shrimps Thailand exported in 2006, but it could fall to 48-49 percent this year.


Niwat said stagnant sales would limit Thai shrimp output to 440,000 tonnes and that export revenue would also fall if the baht continues to appreciate against the US dollar.


Shrimp exports earned Thailand about THB 80 billion (US$2.54 billion) last year, down 5 percent from the year before partly because of the 7 percent Baht appreciation over the year. However, improved performances in Japan and Europe, Thailand's second and third largest markets, have helped to ease exporters' anxieties.


Niwat said exports to Japan rose 7 percent to 54,710 tonnes in the first 11 months of 2007.


Japan had lifted the 5 percent import tariff on Thai shrimps under the free trade agreement that took effect on November 1, 2007.


Exports to the EU showed significant growth with a 54 percent increase of volume to 28,287 tonnes and 48 percent in value to THB 7.05 billion (US$224.1 million) in the first 11 months of 2007.


Niwat said Canada and Russia are also promising markets although their purchasing volume remains small. He suggested that producers should look to rear larger shrimps to improve export revenue and broaden markets.


Competition among large shrimps is low but it has high demands from Japan and the US markets.


Niwat said they have been conducting research and development in producing disease-resistant black tiger prawn broodstock but it is a time-consuming process.


Negotiations to create co-operatives to directly export chilled commodities to Asian countries are also under way. Currently, Mae Klong's shrimp co-operatives export about 2,000 tonnes of raw shrimp to South Korea per year.


This is a win-win proposition as buyers could get fresh, quality products while farmers could bypass brokers and obtain more income, Niwat said.

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