Thailand's shrimp output seen recovering from disease woes in 2015

BANGKOK, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Thailand’s shrimp output is expected to recover to between 250,000 tonnes and 300,000 tonnes in 2015, four years after the sector was hit by the disease of Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS), industry bodies said on Thursday.

Thailand, once the world’s top shrimp exporter, has seen its share of the world market drop to 10 percent against 30 percent to 40 percent in 2012.

“2014 should be the lowest in the industry,” Suraphol Pratuangtum, president of the Thai Marine Shrimp Farmers Association told reporters on Thursday.

“The situation will improve in 2015, as shrimp farmers adopt several strategies to cope with the disease.”

These range from selecting a shrimp species with a stronger immune system to better farm management, cleaning systems and sufficient water reserves, he said.

The disease hit Thai shrimp farms in 2011, after sweeping through Vietnam following its emergence in China in 2009, and caused a supply shortage by nearly halving Thai output to 250,000 tonnes in 2013 from 540,000 in 2012.

Hopes of recovery helped boost the outlook of seafood exporters such as Thai Union Frozen Products PCL and Industry PCL, analysts said.

In the first 10 months of 2014, Thai shrimp output dropped 8 percent to 230,000 tonnes, against a rise of 25 percent in world production, data from the Thai Shrimp Association show. Major rival producers include China, Ecuador, India and Vietnam.

The association gave no full-year forecast.

The value of Thai shrimp exports fell 8.1 percent to 51.72 billion baht ($1.57 billion) during January to October, when volume declined 26.34 percent to 129,432 tonnes, association data showed.

Exports of Thai shrimp in 2014 are estimated at 60 billion baht in value terms and will rise about a fifth to between 75 billion and 80 billion baht next year, said Thai Shrimp Association president Somsak Paneetatyasai.

World shrimp demand is estimated at about 4 million to 5 million tonnes annually, he added.

Besides disease, the sector may also have to fight to stay competitive after the United States downgraded Thailand to its list of the world’s worst centres of human trafficking.

Thai shrimp products are also set to lose European Union tariff privileges, with tariffs rising to 12 percent from 4 percent from January 1, he said.

The United States is Thailand’s biggest export market, with a share of 42 percent this year against Japan’s 24 percent and 13 percent for the EU, the association said. ($1=32.9100 Thai baht) (Reporting by Khettiya Jittapong; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)