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Exporting frozen cultured black tiger shrimp to Europe

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The giant tiger shrimp, also called black tiger, is one of the most popular cultured shrimp species in the world. In 2013, worldwide aquaculture produced over 650,000 tonnes of black tiger shrimps (virtually all produced in Asia). Most of these cultured shrimps are exported to the European Union. The European market is under pressure due to strong competition from other shrimp species. However, black tiger shrimp remains an important product in the food service segment in Northern, Western and Southern Europe.

1 . Product description

Black tiger shrimps (Penaeus monodon) are part of the Penaeidae family. Other species in this family are P. vannamei (whiteleg shrimp), P. setiferus (Atlantic white shrimps) and P. indicus (Indian prawn). Female shrimps can reach sizes of 33 centimetres, but are typically around 25-30 centimetres. Male black tiger shrimps are smaller.

When ‘shrimps and prawns’ are referred to in this survey, this concerns the following Harmonised System codes, unless stated otherwise:

  • 030613 - All frozen, peeled and unpeeled, raw and steamed black tiger shrimps and peeled boiled black tiger shrimps, 
  • 030617 - Frozen shrimps and prawns,
  • 160520 - Shrimps and prawns,
  • 160521 - Shrimps and prawns, not in airtight container,
  • 160529 - Frozen cooked unpeeled shrimps and value-added shrimps (like skewers, spies and marinated shrimps, in airtight containers.

Processing and colour


  • Raw: Grey to black stripes with a little green touch. Associated stripes on the pealed meat.
  • Cooked: Bright red shell and white meat.


Preferred processing varies from country to country, and can be:

  • Whole (HOSO),
  • Shell on (SO),
  • Peeled tail on (PTO),
  • Peeled undeveined (PUD),
  • Peeled and deveined (P&D),
  • Tail-on.

In northern Europe, PUD shrimps are popular. In the south of Europe, raw HOSO (mainly vannamei) shrimps are preferred for the cooking industry.


In Europe, the black tiger shrimps are measured by pieces per kilogram (pc/kg). For Europe, 30-40 pc/kg are preferred in mainstream markets. However, certain niche markets prefer larger sized 20-30 pc/kg.


Glazing of black tiger shrimps is usually between 0-20% and depends on the preference of the buyer.


Packaging requirements differ widely between customers and market segments. Therefore, it is crucial that you discuss your customers’ preferred packaging requirements with them. Some general characteristics are:

  • Frozen black tiger shrimps are mostly imported in cartons with a certain amount of shrimp in it. The number of shrimp per package depends on the size or the weight. For example, 20/30, 30/40 or 40/50 pieces per kilogram.
  • For business-to-business trade, frozen black tiger shrimps are often imported in bulk, in quantities of 5 to 25 kg per package, IQF (individually quick frozen). Another frequently used practice is 1-5 kg block frozen.

Picture 1: Wholesale packaging of IQF black tiger shrimps.  

Picture 2: Supermarket packaging, carton.

  wholesale_tiger_shrimp.jpg supermarket_tiger_shrimp.jpg


There are specific labelling requirements for fish sold in the European Union. In addition, under new rules that went into effect in December 2014 (Directive No. 1379/2013), labels must provide precise information on the production/presentation of the products. For example: aquaculture / whole (HOSO), shell on (SO), peeled tail on (PTO), peeled undeveined (PUD) or peeled and deveined (P&D), tail-on, butterflied. This applies to all unprocessed seafood, as well as to some processed seafood, regardless of whether it is pre-packed. The information must be provided on the labelling or packaging of the fishery product, or by means of a commercial document accompanying the goods.


2 . Which European markets offer opportunities for exporters of black tiger shrimps?  

First, we give a picture of imports for frozen shrimps and prawns in total. Then, we focus on black tiger shrimps. The figures for black tiger shrimps are based on assumptions of export shares of the black tiger production countries in Asia (mainly Bangladesh and Vietnam, and also India and Indonesia).

The black tiger shrimps consumed in Europe are all imported from countries outside Europe, therefore no production data is included. The exports of black tiger shrimps in Europe are re-exports from importing European countries.

Imports of frozen shrimps and prawns

European imports of frozen shrimps and prawns (excluding cold-water shrimps and prawns) increased by 3% per year on average between 2011-2015 to € 3.7 billion. While imports of black tiger shrimps remained relatively stable, the imports of vannamei shrimps experienced growth since 2012 (more details follow below).

Compared with 2014, the total import value in 2015 increased by 2%, while import quantities remained stable. The global supply crisis caused by early mortality syndrome (EMS) resulted in this price increase of shrimps all over the world in 2014. In 2015 this effect was not visible anymore, as EMS outbreaks were mostly under control by that time.

Spain (€ 1.0 billion imports, 27% of European imports) is the largest importer of frozen shrimps and prawns, followed by France (€ 676 million, 18%). Other important importing countries are Italy (€ 400 million), the United Kingdom (€ 353 million), Belgium (€ 308 million) and Germany (€ 307 million).

Western European countries (the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium) mainly import their shrimps from countries that produce both black tiger and vannamei shrimps. Spain, France and Italy mainly import vannamei shrimps.

Bangladesh plays a special role as supplying country; black tiger shrimps account for nearly 100% of the Bangladeshi shrimp production. For the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, shrimp imports from Bangladesh amount to 17%, 23% and 21% of total shrimp imports, respectively.

Imports of black tiger shrimps

Along with Japan, Europe is one of the most important markets for black tiger shrimp. While Japan mainly sources the largest size black tiger shrimps, Europe also imports smaller sizes. As a result of the price-oriented behaviour of European consumers since 2008, the contribution of black tiger shrimp to total shrimp imports is decreasing, which is also clearly proven by Figure 1.

The United Kingdom is the largest importer of black tiger shrimps in Europe, followed by Germany. The United Kingdom imported € 149 million worth of black tiger shrimps in 2015 (23% of European imports), for Germany the figure was € 122 million (19%). Other large importing countries are Belgium (€ 101 million), France (€ 86 million), the Netherlands (€ 83 million) and Switzerland (€ 24 million).

The import of black tiger shrimps in the United Kingdom and Germany is dominated by supply from Bangladesh (€ 69 million and € 66 million), followed by supply from Vietnam (€ 39 million in the United Kingdom and € 41 million in Germany).

Leading suppliers of frozen shrimps and prawns

Ecuador, India and Argentina are the leading suppliers of frozen shrimps and prawns. Together, they represented 43% of total European imports in 2015. Other leading suppliers are Bangladesh, Vietnam and Spain.

Leading suppliers of black tiger shrimps

The largest exporting countries of black tiger shrimps are Bangladesh and Vietnam. Together, they represented more than 75% of total European imports of black tiger shrimps in 2015. Four other countries complete the list of black tiger shrimp suppliers to Europe: India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Myanmar is an upcoming exporter of both wild-caught and farmed black tiger shrimps. It is expected that in the run of 2017 the last few administrative requirements will be met and the first deliveries of Myanmese black tiger shrimps to the European market will take place.

Vietnam used to be the main supplier of black tiger shrimps to Europe. However, in the past few years, the import of black tiger shrimp from Bangladesh grew almost every year, while exports from Vietnam experienced a decline. In Vietnam, production of white leg shrimps grew sharply since 2011, resulting in a declining export share of black tiger shrimps (from 80% to 38% in 2015). In the other countries, the share of black tiger shrimp in exports is also declining, but absolute export values and volumes remain rather stable.


  • Benchmark your company against your peers from Bangladesh, Vietnam, Ecuador and India, as well as against your peers from Spain and the other top supplying countries of shrimps, prawns and black tiger shrimps. One source that could be used to find exporters of these products per country is the International Trade Center (ITC) International Trade Statistics (you have to register first).

  • Probably the best chances to access the European market is to focus on the largest importing countries of black tiger shrimp, such as the number one, the United Kingdom, and number two, Germany.

  • If you want to access the European market, consider participating in the Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, Belgium or Conxemar in Vigo, Spain. These two events are the largest seafood trade shows in Europe. These trade shows give you the opportunity to showcase your products and meet with potential buyers from European countries.

  • The TARIC database shows more details about import duties for Chapters 0306 and 1605.

  • Visiting the leading events in Europe also gives you a good idea of trends in the seafood market as well as interesting contacts with potential buyers.

  • You can do more research on these exporting countries by visiting the websites of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) or Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), which is an Indian organisation that promotes the export of seafood from the country.

  • For further research on price information, you can visit the websites of Globefish, which is a reliable source of world fish trade and meter news from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), or the European Market Observatory for Fishery and Aquaculture Products (EUMOFA), a marketing intelligence tool on the fisheries and aquaculture sector of the European Union.


Total European exports of frozen shrimps and prawns decreased by 2.0% per year on average between 2011‑2015 to €1.0 billion. Virtually all exports go to other European countries. Part of this intra-EU trade flow consists of black tiger shrimps, however, it is unknown how large this share is. Most probably, this share is less than 10% of total exports.

Spain and Belgium are the largest European exporters of frozen shrimps and prawns (together € 494 million in 2015, 47% of total European exports). Other important exporters were the Netherlands (14% share), Germany (8%), France (7%) and Portugal (7%). Globally imported shrimps enter Europe via the port of Antwerp, from where the shrimps are distributed to surrounding European markets.

The price difference between import and re-export was highest for Spain. This can be attributed to the large processing industry in that country. Spain imports large volumes of cheap raw vannamei shrimp materials (mostly from Argentina and Ecuador), and after cooking and packaging a small share of total output is re‑exported.


  • More often than not, importers of shrimp are also re-exporting shrimp. To find importers in Europe it is best to search the company databases of national associations. Visit, for example, the importer/exporter database of Dutch Fish, or the Belgian database of Visengezond.  

  • You can find more information about the shrimp market at FAO.

  • Gather data about market developments of black tiger prawns and whiteleg shrimps. Globefish provides quarterly information about developments in the global seafood market.


Unfortunately, there is no precise information on consumption in Europe and apparent consumption is very difficult to calculate on account of exports often being reprocessed inside the European Union and values and volumes changing. In general, however, shrimp represents only a small part of overall seafood consumption. The share in terms of value is greater than the share in terms of volume. This is both the case for shrimp in total, and even more for black tiger shrimp (as their price is relatively high).

As there are many variables influencing shrimp market prices, it is also difficult to forecast future demand. Prices have a large influence on demand. In turn, prices are influenced by global availability and global demand. Both are difficult to predict.

Countries such as Spain, Italy, and France import raw vannamei material to a large extent, mostly whole (HOSO), as a source for domestic shrimp cookeries. Northern and western European countries, on the other hand, import more cooked or peeled shrimps.

As mentioned earlier, northern and western European countries predominantly import their shrimps from Asian countries, while southern European countries tend to source mainly from South American countries.


  • To find information about consumer preferences for shrimp products, take a look at the websites of large retailers in the different European Union Member States such as Albert Heijn (the Netherlands), Eroski (Spain), Carrefour (France), Sainsbury’s (United Kingdom), and Metro (Germany). You can use an online translation service like Google Translate to translate ‘shrimp’ into the language of your choice.

  • If you want to do business with Spanish importers, make sure your marketing staff speaks Spanish. Otherwise, it will be difficult for you to compete with South and Central American exporters that are already supplying Spanish importers.

3 . What trends offer opportunities on the European market for frozen black tiger shrimps?

This chapter is mainly focused on the trends for black tiger shrimps. For more information on trends for the European shrimp market, see our study Trends on the European shrimp market.

Sustainable production becoming a requirement

See for more information below, in the chapter about requirements.

Vannamei prices influence demand for black tiger shrimp

During normal times, black tiger shrimps are more expensive than vannamei shrimps. A temporarily different situation occurred in 2013-2014 when the shortage of vannamei shrimp supply pushed the prices of vannamei shrimps up to the same level as for black tiger. This was a positive situation for black tiger shrimps, as with equal prices consumers prefer to buy black tiger shrimp on account of its colour and taste.

As a result, exports from Bangladesh to Europe increased sharply in 2013 and 2014. In 2015 prices of vannamei returned to normal levels and this resulted in a (previously forecasted) drop in black tiger consumption in Europe, as well as a drop in imports of black tiger shrimp from Bangladesh (see Figure 3).

Relatively stable demand, also in Southern Europe

Although the lion’s share of consumption in southern Europe comprises vannamei shrimp, there is also a niche market for large size black tiger shrimp. Consumers in southern Europe are very much quality‑oriented and higher-income consumer groups prefer to purchase larger-sized shrimp, especially in the out-of-home segment. Despite some pressure on demand because consumers sometimes spent less out-of-home during worse economic times, the demand from this market segment has remained relatively stable.

Convenience food in demand

In Europe, the demand for convenience food is growing every year. People live busy lives and feel considerable time pressure. Therefore they prefer meals that are easy to prepare and easy to cook. In addition, there is a trend towards more ready-made products.


  • Discuss with your buyers the potential of value-added products on the European market. For example, in the form of marinated shrimps or skewers.

Focus on larger sizes

In the long term, black tiger shrimp will increasingly become a niche product. In the case vannamei production recovers completely and prices fall, it will be difficult for black tiger shrimp to compete with sizes that overlap with vannamei. Black tiger shrimp will become more of a niche product. Most demand for larger-sized black tiger shrimp will continue to come from the out-of-home (restaurants) segment all over Europe, while retail sales of large-size black tiger shrimp will be particularly strong in Southern Europe.


  • Make a plan with your buyer to find niche markets to sell your black tiger shrimps in Europe.

  • For the long term, invest in a good marketing plan to sell your large black tiger shrimps in Europe.

Organic black tiger shrimps

There is also a small but growing demand for organic seafood. It can be interesting for you to investigate the market potential of organic black tiger shrimps in Europe.


  • Organic black tiger shrimps could be a potential niche market. As much of the primary production of black tiger shrimps happens in traditional farms/ponds, a transfer to certified production mainly requires organisational changes, not necessarily change of production.

  • For more information about organic seafood, see our factsheet Exporting Organic Seafood to Europe.

4 . What requirements should black tiger shrimps comply with to be allowed on the European market?

Before you can sell to European buyers, you need to fully understand the European Union’s legal requirements that apply to your fish and seafood products. Understanding is the first thing, after which follows the route to compliance. See our study EU Buyer Requirements for Fish and Seafood to better understand the legal requirements and also additional requirements that European buyers may ask from you. The most important and specific requirement for shrimps is sustainability certification. This is explained below.

Sustainability certification

The shrimp-farming sector, particularly in Asia, has received negative attention in Europe in the past decade. Negative impact on communities and the environment by the shrimp sector has been criticised. One of the results is the trend that eco-labelled seafood products (or: sustainability-certified products) have quickly gained market share in several European markets in recent years. Countries in Western and Northern Europe (such as the Netherlands and Germany) are the leading markets for eco-labelled seafood. In the Southern and Eastern European markets, eco-labelling still plays a limited role.

The following sustainability standards for shrimps in Europe are most relevant:

  • Friend of the Sea (FOS): FOS is an Italy-based fisheries and aquaculture certification scheme. Eight Vietnamese companies have certified black tiger shrimp operations. Also, two farms in Indonesia are FOS-certified.
  • The shrimp certification of Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), a non-profit organisation that stands for responsible aquaculture, started in 2014. The first ASC-certified black tiger shrimps became available in the Scandinavian market at the end of 2014. Other countries in Northern and Western Europe followed in 2015, and ASC is expected to gain in importance in other parts of Europe, too, in the long term. Therefore, it is good to invest in this upcoming standard. So far, there are no more than five black tiger farms with ASC certification (four in Vietnam and one in Madagascar).


  • As a supplier, you need to invest in transparency and sustainability to enhance your potential in Europe. Work on special activities in your country to support the communities and environment. Include these activities in your market strategy.

  • In addition to transparency and sustainability, reliability is of utmost importance to European companies. Focus, for instance, on quality and delivery time.

  • If you are interested in selling ASC black tiger shrimp, discuss with your buyer whether a premium can be paid or calculate if you can produce ASC black tiger in a cost-neutral way. For more information about ASC standards and certification, check the ASC website and the ASC accelerator support program.

  • Find out more about shrimp farms that are already certified by FOS on the FOS website.

  • Relevant sources that may be helpful for you in gaining access to the European market are: the EU Export Helpdesk to find information related to European requirements, tariffs, statistics and preferential arrangements and the ITC Standards Map for standards.

  • The Sustainable Fish Platform (copy this link and paste in your browser) offers a good starting point for getting an overview of sustainable fish production, also for Asian shrimp in particular.

Common requirements

For black tiger shrimp and other seafood, additional requirements are mainly requirements with respect to food safety. The most commonly requested food safety certification schemes for seafood products are International Food Standard (IFS) and (or) British Retail Consortium (BRC), and sometimes also GLOBALG.A.P.


5 . Through what channels can you get black tiger shrimps onto the European market?

Developing Country exporters of black tiger shrimps have two main options for entering the European market: 1) agent and 2) traders such as importers, processors and wholesalers of black tiger shrimps. See our study Market Channels and Segments for Frozen Fish and Seafood for a general overview of channels.

Large black tiger importers have their own quality agents at origin to check the quality of the shrimp products. These checks can be a final inspection at the end of the production chain or monitoring throughout the process. Importers will continue to visit your factory before they sign contracts but will make use of a local agent to assure quality and manage their risks.

Imported fishery products enter Europe either by ship or by airfreight. Frozen cultured tiger prawns are mainly transported by ship. Important ports in Europe are Antwerp (Belgium), Rotterdam (the Netherlands), Hamburg or Bremen (Germany), and Marseille (France).


  • It is an advantage to be transparent about your operations, from sourcing to processing. Give your buyer the possibility to influence and monitor the overall production process. Co-production is becoming more common and may increase your business opportunities.

  • Try to invest in a product that is suitable for selling in supermarkets. Take a look at a product assortment of a supermarket through their websites.

  • If you are aiming to supply your products to the retail segment in Europe, find out which large import and wholesale companies trade with large retailers in Europe. Large companies that supply to the retail segment include Deutsche See in Germany, Galana in Belgium or Heiploeg in the Netherlands.

  • Make use of matchmaking services such as Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal (STIP).

6 . What are the end-market prices for frozen shrimps and prawns?

Figure 4 shows the average shrimp price for the main shrimps importing countries in Europe. The difference in average shrimp price between southern Europe (Spain, Italy, and France) and northern Europe (Belgium, United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands) in 2015 was € 2.34.

Countries like Spain, Italy, and France import cheaper raw vannamei material, mostly HOSO, as a source for their domestic shrimp cookeries, while northern Europe imports more cooked or peeled shrimps. The average import price in Europe in 2015 was € 7.50 per kilogram, which was a little higher than the € 7.30 in 2014. This shows that the global supply shortage caused by the EMS outbreak still had an upward pressure on prices in 2015.

Consumer prices of black tiger shrimp products in the different European countries give you an impression of the price level in Europe.

Table 1: Examples of prices for black tiger shrimp products in Europe


Price (€/kg)


Frozen raw black tiger prawns

15.77 - 29.90

United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Spain

Frozen raw black tiger prawns (8-12 pieces in a box of 800 gram)



Frozen raw and peeled black tiger prawns


United Kingdom

Frozen raw and peeled black tiger prawns (13‑15 pieces in a box of 800 gram)



Frozen raw black tiger shrimps without heads



Cooked and peeled black tiger prawns


United Kingdom

Cooked black tiger prawns

24.88 - 29.85

Spain, Belgium

Fresh black tiger prawns in plastic container



Baked tiger prawns



Source: Globally Cool, 2016

The margins in the value chain vary a lot from low-end to high-end products. For low-end products, margins can be as low as 5% for each company, with a retail margin as low as 10%. For high-end products, these margins can be as high as 20-25% for fishermen and processors, and 100% for importers and retailers.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

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