Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

What trends offer opportunities on the European frozen shrimp market?

Takes about 6 minutes to read

Diseases and quality issues on shrimp farms negatively affected trade in 2015 and 2016. However, European imports show some promising recovery. Sustainability certification and responsible sourcing are becoming increasingly important on the European market for frozen shrimp, especially in northern and western Europe. In addition, a preference for convenience food drives demand for value-added shrimp.

1 . Shrimp imports recovered slightly in 2016

After growing by 21% in 2014, European shrimp imports stabilised due to issues with shrimp diseases in 2015. Although these issues continued in 2016, the imports picked up again. European imports increased by 4.9% from € 3.6 billion in 2015 to € 3.8 billion in 2016.

Imports increased the most in Italy (by 11%) and the United Kingdom (9%). This recovery is promising, as imports in these countries decreased over 2015. Figure 1 below shows the development of imports over the period 2012–2016 in the leading European markets for frozen shrimp.

Looking at the coming years, the European import of shrimp is expected to continue to grow by 2–5% per year. This is based on two assumptions: 1) the leading shrimp production countries worldwide manage to control diseases and 2) the European consumption expenditure growth will continue to perform relatively well compared to other countries and regions in the world.


2 . Danger of disease outbreaks in shrimps is coming back

The production of shrimps in 2015 was affected by the Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS) outbreak in important production countries including China, India, Ecuador and Vietnam. This caused supply shortages, high prices and deterioration in the position of traders. The lower production volume was mainly due to production losses and additionally to reduced stocking density so as to avoid disease problems.

After EMS diminished, prices returned to normal and even low levels at the beginning of 2016. However, in early 2016, Enterocytozoon hepatopenaei (EHP) was discovered in several shrimp farming countries in Asia. EHP is a micro sporedean disease that is hard to detect and eliminate. Combined with various disease-related issues, this process lead to weak production in the first half of 2016.

The outlook for shrimp production in 2018 is positive, with Ecuador and India as the strongest contributors to global production growth. However, from time to time, there are temporary dips in imports. For example, shrimp imports to the European Union reached a five-year low in the first quarter of 2017. In Spain and France, imports did increase by 5% and 3% compared to 2016, respectively.


  • To avoid EHP, it is important that the entire production chain is clean (so farms, waterways and hatcheries). The impact of this disease can also be reduced by keeping lower-density stocks and by using lower salt levels. EHP can also be eliminated by high temperatures and freezing.
  • Other measures to prevent EMS are a strict control on water quality and regulation of the feeding programme. Of course, contact your local seafood association for technical help in this matter.
  • For more information, see the 2016 meeting report of The Aquaculture Roundtable Series (TARS) on measures to avoid diseases and recovery solutions for the shrimp culture industry in Asia.

3 . More attention given to sustainability and responsible sourcing

The shrimp-farming sector, particularly in Asia, has received negative attention in the European media. The sector has been criticised for its negative impact on communities and the environment, such as child labour in Thailand as well as the pollution of groundwater and agricultural land.

As a result, consumers’ awareness of the negative social and environmental impact of shrimp farming is increasing. European buyers are therefore seeking out shrimp suppliers that are able to prove the sustainability and responsibility of their product.


  • You can prove sustainability and responsibility in your product by means of certification such as GlobalG.A.P. and by underpinning your product with a responsible story. For instance, if you have any activities that protect the environment or support local communities, include these in your marketing strategy.

4 . Sustainability certification gains importance on the mainstream market

While particularly the organic and Fairtrade market are built on a set of certification requirements, certification trademarks have become common on the mainstream market as well in recent years. This is especially true for large supermarket chains in northern and western Europe.

Commonly required certificates are GlobalG.A.P. and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). Such certificates are the answer to the trend of increasing attention for food safety, sustainability and responsible sourcing.

The availability of ASC certified shrimp in Europe has grown rapidly in the past few years. It became available on the Scandinavian market in late 2014, while other countries in northern and western Europe followed in 2015. Worldwide, numerous shrimp farms obtained ASC certification in the past few years. Examples are farms in Belize and Honduras.


  • See our study of EU buyer requirements on the European market for fish and seafood for more information.
  • See our fact sheet about the organic seafood market in Europe.
  • If you intend to supply (or continue to supply) to leading European retailers, you might need to invest in sustainability certification. On the other hand, in Germany (which has a high degree of certification), organic food sales represent less than 5% of the total food sales. For several buyers, GlobalG.A.P. continues to suffice.
  • If you are interested in becoming ASC or GlobalG.A.P. approved, contact ASC, the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative or the GlobalG.A.P. website for support and assistance.

5 . More uniform buyer requirements

In previous years, there was a huge difference in buyer requirements throughout the European Union. Now, it seems that the European market is becoming more uniform. This is partly caused by the more stringent European Union regulations and by the fact that retailers throughout Europe increasingly apply the same buyer requirements.

At the same time, there are still considerable differences between markets in north-western Europe and southern or eastern Europe; for example, when it comes to eco-labelling, which still plays a limited role on southern and eastern European markets.

The uniformity of the European market is likely to increase further by initiatives such as the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative, which will benchmark certification initiatives and offers retailers a tool to work with more than one certification initiative.

6 . More value-added activities in supplying countries in the long term

The demand for ready-to-eat, easy-to-cook value-added shrimp products is increasing. This is in line with the general increase in demand for convenience food. In addition, many consumers do not know how to prepare shrimp.

Currently, only simple value-adding activities such as peeling and portioning are outsourced to processors in developing countries. However, as a result of price pressure, more complex value-adding activities will be outsourced in the long term; for example, the production of marinated shrimp.


  • The European market provides opportunities for you if you are able to produce value‑added shrimp products such as skewers or marinated shrimp.
  • Invest in value-adding processing in order to increase the value of your product; if possible, in close communication with your clients/buyers.
  • Note that you need to obtain food safety certifications such as British Retail Consortium (BRC) or International Featured Standards (IFS) for value-added products. This is because these products are sold through food retail or high-end food service channels.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

Follow us for the latest updates