Sales of Ecuadorean shrimp to China were worth over US$1 billion between January and August this year but were suddenly halted in September for sanitary reasons, casting uncertainty over the trade.
Almost a month after Chinese authorities imposed a ban in response to apparent outbreaks of diseases known as yellow head and white spot, only one of Ecuador’s five companies originally sanctioned to export shrimp is still authorised to do so. The rest are only permitted to sell cooked shrimp meat.
Ecuadorean producers – many of whom are small and medium-sized businesses – are deeply concerned by the impact of the episode on prices and their livelihoods.
Ecuador’s shrimp producers
Marcos Tello is a shrimp producer from the coastal city of Esmeraldas in northwestern Ecuador. He maintains regular contact with producers from other parts of the country via phone calls and WhatsApp groups which monitor information about the China shrimp ban.
“We have only received a few bulletins from the Ministry of Foreign Trade and through the Chamber of Aquaculture, but we have no further details,” says Tello, who is president of the Northern Shrimp Producers Association of Emeralds (Aprocane).
Aprocane groups around 40 entrepreneurs who own 1,500 hectares of shrimp farms on Ecuador’s northern coast.
Producers are keen to preserve what had become a booming trade. Between January and August this year, Ecuador sent 210,000 metric tonnes of shrimp to China, according to the National Chamber of Aquaculture (CNA).