The prawn sandwich brigade lambasted by Roy Keane is set to suffer another blow after the price paid by UK importers for prawns reached a record high.
The increase of 15 per cent in the past three months, reported by UK purchasing company Beacon, is because of a number of factors, including rising demand, droughts in Bangladesh and Vietnam, and poor harvests in China, which have left European importers’ prawn stocks running low.
The average price paid by UK seafood suppliers for king and tiger prawns has risen to £12.75 a kilogram, while the average price for northern Atlantic prawns has hit £11.72, reports The Guardian.
Beacon warned that the price rises would be passed on to consumers. Prawn prices are set to remain high into next year.
Beacon’s main seafood suppliers, M&J Seafood and Direct Seafoods, are reporting price increases in Vietnam, where production has fallen sharply following a severe drought in the Mekong delta in the spring, the worst in nearly a century.
Low harvests in China have caused local demand for prawns to surge, reducing exports to Europe. In Canada, there has been a 42 per cent cut in the coldwater prawn quota, equivalent to a reduction of more than 20,000 tonnes.
Farmers are switching from black tiger prawns to the vannamei species, with the former 40 per cent more expensive than their lower cost alternatives. But the rise in demand for vannamei is likely to push prices up further.
Emma Warrington, a senior food buyer at Beacon, said: “At the moment, suppliers are doing everything in their power to mitigate price increases for the end consumer.
“However, with the pressure likely to continue into next year, it’s only a matter of time before these price increases are passed on, meaning the classic Christmas prawn cocktail could be more expensive this year.”
Richard Watson, a market analyst at industry group Seafish, said: “Shrimp traders are already building stocks for the festive period. The main producing nations report reduced supply, hence prices are on the rise. For example, Ecuadorian production has dropped since last month, pushing prices up.”
The global prawn industry, which produces more than 6 million tonnes a year, has been mired in controversy over its ecological impact and link to slavery. - IH