Both shrimp and finfish aquaculture continued to grow globally in 2021, but might experience flattening or slower growth in 2022, according to production surveys conducted by the Global Seafood Alliance.

In a presentation at the final day of the organization’s Global Outlook for Aquaculture Leadership (GOAL) conference on 17 November, Rabobank Senior Analyst Gorjan Nikolik said globally, the aquaculture sector’s production is slowly normalizing after disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nikolik said the global shrimp industry went through serious volume recovery in the past year, recording a predicted 8.9 percent production increase for 2021.

“I think it’s great to see that the sector has recovered so strongly,” Nikolik said. “And this 2021 rebound shown here, of course, does not yet include those new numbers that we had for Ecuador and Brazil. So this 8.9 percent is probably going to increase and become I would say 10 percent or even more.”

Nikolik predicted a 6.4 percent increase for 2022 – significant, but not as impressive as this year’s recovery, according to Nikolik. Nikolik said he was impressed by the growth, considering the circumstances.

“This was done in the time when there’s still a pandemic. Most of the world still had all kinds of quarantine. There were lingering issues where people could not find labor in the processing plants. We had logistics issues like we’ve probably never had before,” he said.

Ecuador was at the forefront of countries that saw significant growth this year, producing 40,000 metric tons (MT) of vannamei shrimp with a projected export value of USD 4.6 billion (EUR 4.1 billion). This represents growth of more than 30 percent in the past year. The country is projected to replace India as the world’s top shrimp exporter by both volume and value by the end of the year.

India started to bounce back from COVID-related dips in 2021, with a projected total harvest of 700,000 MT, a 6 percent increase from 2020, but still shy of 2019’s total harvest of 750,000 MT. Nikolik said it may take until 2023 for India to return to its pre-pandemic volumes.

Other significant growth figures in shrimp aquaculture include Brazil increasing production by 23.3 percent and Thailand growing output by 12.8 percent. Chinese production could not be accurately estimated, Nikolik said, as government-provided figures appear significantly inflated and require further analysis.

In finfish aquaculture, Nikolik said GSA producer surveys indicated growth of 2.5 percent in 2021 and 2.7 percent in 2022. The sector has averaged 4.5 percent growth over the past decade.

“It just feels a little bit like the sector’s growing slower when you put everything together,” Nikolik said.

In the salmon industry, top producers Norway and Chile are having very different years, as Norway is projected to achieve a 10 percent production increase this year while Chilean output is set to drop 14 percent. But Nikolik said Chile has reportedly shifted a lot of its production forward, so that drop figure isn’t as significant in the long-term. Nikolik said he expects Norway and Chile to produce 4.6 percent and 8.8 percent more salmon in 2022, respectively. Production in Canada and the United Kingdom remains fairly flat volume-wise in 2021, Nikolik said.

Farmed cod saw a near 50 percent increase in production in 2021, Nikolik said. The figures are still small – just 5,000 MT of farmed cod is expected to be harvested this year – but Nikolik said it ”will be a sector to pay close attention to” in coming years.

Global tilapia production, which is projected to grow by 2.5 percent in 2021, is projected to hit 3.7 percent growth in 2022. At the same time, the industry has matured enough that consumers are growing to expect higher-quality products and better marketing, the cost of which could offset some of that production increase globally, according to Nikolik.

All in all, Nikolik said production across the aquaculture industry appears to be stabilizing after a tumultuous 2020, although labor shortages and supply issues could linger even as the world begins to a post-pandemic phase.

Photo courtesy of Gorjan Nikolik/Rabobank

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