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Disease powers shrimp prices

Sun., Aug. 18, 2013

That fried shrimp is going to hit you in the gut, and the wallet.

Prices for the tiny crustaceans are soaring because of a disease that’s crimping supplies in Thailand, Vietnam and China, the world’s three largest producers of shrimp.

“Production is down substantially,” said Paul Brown, president of Urner Barry, a food industry market research firm that tracks shrimp prices.

The popular shellfish is now approaching a record $6 per pound, up one-third from the beginning of the year. In 2010, a pound of shrimp set consumers back $3.

Producers are blaming a disorder called Early Mortality Syndrome, which thrives in the warm waters of Southeast Asia. The disease is not believed to be communicable to humans and has been gradually worsening in the last few years.

More than one-third of U.S. shrimp imports came from Thailand last year, worth about $1.1 billion. Imports from the country are down 31 percent this year, Brown said.

Exporters are hopeful the disease can be treated in the near term.

Until then, analysts said the crisis will open opportunities for other shrimp-producing nations to fill market share.


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