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Ecuador sees better feed, tech upgrades drive shrimp growth, despite larvae mortalities

Thursday, October 19, 2017 > 10:06:12
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Under Current News

Technology upgrades and improved feed are driving Ecuadorian shrimp production to record levels, Jose Antonio Camposano, the Ecuadorian chamber of aquaculture's executive president, said.

However, lower availability of larvae threat future growth, some sources told Undercurrent News. 

Camposano told Undercurrent in an interview at the recent Aqua Expo Guayaquil 2017 that the industry remains committed to reduce its use of antibiotics, which is already "very low" compared with other countries, he claimed. 

Ecuadorian producers are also introducing more technology upgrades to their production methods, he said. These include more automatic feeders, aeration machines to increase oxygen and re-cycle the water, water treatments and the use of probiotics in addition to improvements to feed and genetics. 

The Ecuadorian industry "continues to learn", said Camposano. "With technological advances, it is our responsibility - as one of the main suppliers of shrimp to the world - to mark the way."

Camposano said that ongoing technology upgrades were improving farms' shrimp fattening and survival rate, resulting in higher production without increasing the density.

He added that an increase in farm density would need to be accompanied by "full" technical upgrades.

Camposano also said that the country's industry was working "with better standards" to "challenge [its competitors] to the top", showcasing a production system that was "already generating attractive results with transparency".

Production growth

Between January and August, Ecuador produced a total of 620 million pounds (281,227 metric tons), worth $1.9 billion. This marks a 15% growth year-on-year both in value and volume, because prices remained stable, Camposano told Undercurrent. 

A 20% y-o-y decrease in production in July, driven by colder temperatures compared to the norm was offset by growth during the other months of the year.

A decrease in production during July is normal. This year it has been a little more marked, because the rainy season -- as a result of the El Nino phenomenon -- lasted until May-June instead of ending in April and the start of the "cold" season was slightly delayed, Camposano said. 

Ecuadorian shrimp output in August was about 9% up year-on-year at 73m lbs in (32,000t) $220m.

Regarding the forecast for 2017 total production, Camposano remained more conservative than some of the producers, forecasting a growth of 8-9% compared with 2016 to 870-880m lbs of shrimp (394,625-399,161t).

Vannamei shrimp production in Ecuador in 2017 looks set to easily surpass 400,000t, Sandro Coglitore, who runs shrimp farmer and processorOmarsa, told Undercurrent. 

The president of farmer and processor Songa, Rodrigo Laniado Romero, said that if the growth rate of the first eight months of the year would continue until the end of the year, Ecuador could reach a total production of 421,565t (see graph).

In 2016 Ecuador exported a total of 799.8m pounds (362,808t), up 11% compared with 2015.

Larvae availability a challenge

Several Undercurrent industry sources in Ecuador pointed to the availability of larvae as a challenge for the industry, which could potentially slow growth. According to some, this has been an issue already since last year, but, despite this, Ecuadorian production has continued to grow in 2017 compared with last year.

However, some sources said that the problem is becoming more serious.

"Massive death of larvae is occurring on all sides not only on the peninsula. Be careful in selecting larvae. This topic would have to be handled in a serious way. It is affecting all and future shrimp production could be reduced by the lack of quality larvae," one said.

The issue has caused closures of laboratories in the Santa Elena peninsula, according to a blog post. "

Today three laboratories are closed and for sale, more than 20 are in auto-quarantine for drying and deep disinfection, others continue to fall to the virus and the results are a shortage of larvae that no one can prevent that reaches a catastrophic situation for Ecuador, the disaster is coming, it would be nice to know if someone has a solution", was stated in the above mentioned blog post.

Another source from the industry told Undercurrent that however, the issue was so far limited to the Zona de Mar Bravo - Salinas, while it had not affected laboratories in Manabi or further north, nor in Esmeraldas. The source said that the disease affecting the larvae was early mortality syndrome.

Export markets

Asia constitutes the main destination for Ecuadorian shrimp at present, Camposano noted.

Camposano stressed that the US market, where shrimp consumption was growing, offered a large potential for Ecuadorian shrimp producers to increase exports. 

The European Union shrimp market remains very stable, thanks to the free trade agreement deal that reduced the entry tariff for Ecuadorian shrimp from 3.6% to 0% at the start of this year.

"This situation has given the European importer and the Ecuadorian exporter the peace of mind to continue their [trade] business", he said.

European exports grow little [in absolute numbers], but the important thing is that Ecuador keeps its market share, Camposano said, pointing out that Ecuador was the main shrimp exporter to Europe, with 24% of the market, followed by India.

Ecuador is ready to step in and increase its shrimp sales to the EU, should India be slapped with an import ban later this year, Camposano said.

Regarding a possibility of a EU's ban to Indian imports, Camposano noted that "if the sanitary authorities do not apply the appropriate sanctions, the countries that are not adapting their practices will continue".

"Nobody talks about the clean record Ecuador has [in terms of antibiotics]," he said, pointing out that India and Vietnam had to be accounted responsible for their misconduct with antibiotics.

Referring to the use of antibiotics, Camposano said Ecuador was leading an initiative "to change aquaculture in the world" in terms of transparency and traceability.

"The use of antibiotics in Ecuador is minimal in comparison to other countries and today we have easily 8-10% of farms that do not use it in any phase and we want to scale this number. We want to work on this," he said.

Meanwhile, Ecuadorian producers are awaiting the opening of the Brazilian market, having registered to export. 

"The companies have been approved [to export] and are awaiting the labeling to be approved. Once the labeling is approved, we are ready to go," Camposano said, stressing that the export of shrimp did not constitute a risk for Brazilian production, as stated by the local shrimp breeders association ABCC to oppose the shrimp market liberalization in the country. 


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