In 2022 and the beginning of 2023, US shrimp imports substantially dropped, leading to a shrimp surplus and lower export prices. As early signs of slowing US inflation emerge, the overall number of shrimp imported by the US has begun to rise again. Although it’s still too early to tell, the number of shrimp imports may continue to increase.
Today, Vietnam consistently ranks as the 4th largest supplier of shrimp to the US, but this wasn’t always the case. Before the establishment of the Comprehensive Partnership between Vietnam and the United States in 2013, Vietnamese shrimp exports to the US were only around 500 million USD. Post-2013, Vietnamese shrimp exports to the US experienced rapid growth. In 2014, Vietnam’s monthly shrimp exports to the US soared to a record of over 1 billion USD, primarily due to high shrimp prices.
From 2016-2018, shrimp exports to the US slowed down due to high anti-dumping taxes. In 2021, Vietnamese shrimp exports to the US almost reached the record levels of 2014, totaling over 1.04 billion USD, attributed to increased retail sales and food service demand during the pandemic. In 2021, the global price of shrimp was close to what it is today, but the sheer volume of shrimp exported from Vietnam resulted in a high overall value.
Graph showing change in number of yearly US shrimp imports and Vietnam’s percent share (Data from NOAA)
Unfortunately, in 2022, due to record inflation levels in the US, high shrimp inventory, weak purchasing power, and decreased shrimp prices, Vietnam’s yearly shrimp exports to the US decreased by close to 20,000 tons. It wasn’t just Vietnam—total US shrimp imports dropped during this period as well. This trend continued through the beginning of 2023, reaching a low in February 2023, with the US importing a total of 52,889 tons, a recent years’ low. However, the quantity of imports has gradually recovered. Although it has not reached the import levels of 2021, the imports from July 2023 and beyond surpassed the import volume from the same months of the previous year.
Graph showing a dip and then steady rise in total monthly US imports of shrimp (Data from NOAA)
This year’s gradual increase in Vietnam’s exports to the US coincided with a decrease in exports to China. China had a large inventory of shrimp for the majority of 2023 and imported much less shrimp last year as a result. By the end of 2023, this supply began to diminish, and China has begun importing more shrimp.
Data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that in October, the fourth month of increased import sizes, US shrimp imports from Vietnam reached 10 tons, up 76.37% over the same period in 2022. Still, global shrimp prices hit a ten-year low in October 2023 at 6.47 USD/KG (IMF). The global price rose slightly in November, sitting at 6.50 USD/KG. Hopefully, this price will continue to rise. Import data for December is not yet available on the NOAA website, but it can be expected that the trend of import growth continued into this month, as the year-end holidays tend to increase demand.
Beyond shrimp, Vietnam’s relative share in US seafood imports has increased and may continue to rise in 2024. A recent CNN article explains that US inflation has been showing signs of stabilizing and decreasing. Although it’s "too premature to declare victory," this bodes well for the economy in the coming year. The trade partnership between the US and Vietnam appears to be strengthening as well. Ten years after establishing the Comprehensive Partnership (2013-2023), on September 10, 2023, during the US State visit to Vietnam, the two countries announced an upgrade of their bilateral relations to the highest level: "Comprehensive Strategic Partnership." This event will likely open new opportunities for trade in goods, including seafood, between the two countries and create a positive economic future for both nations.
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