Ecuador's shrimp exports will suffer big losses this year due to low world prices and attacks of white spot virus, industry officials said. A hit to the country's shrimping industry is no small matter, as shrimp are Ecuador's third biggest source of export income, after oil
and bananas. Producers and exporters say that their $900 million shrimp export target set for 1999 will not be reached and forecast only $580 million in sales.
, head of the National Shrimp Chamber, said white spot virus had frightened producers who prefer to stop breeding rather than risk major losses. "White spot virus has thrown us into chaos," he said. White spot, which kills shrimp larvae, first appeared in Ecuadorean shrimp farms at the beginning of the year, but the outbreak has worsened in the last two months. The virus apparently comes from Asia, but the industry does not know how it reached the South American country.
"The sector employed around 250,000 people some months ago. But now employment has been reduced by about 15-20 percent,", Coglitore added.
Ecuadorean shrimp exports rose 5.4 percent to 114,754 tons in 1998 compared to 1997, thanks the warm waters of the El Nino weather phenomenon. But in the same year, revenues fell 1.2 percent to $875 million from $886 million in 1997 due to falling world prices.
The problems for the shrimp industry come as Ecuador is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, which has forced the country to restructure its entire stock of external and internal debt.
The U.S., Spain, France and Italy are the main markets for Ecuadorean shrimp.
Ricardo Estrada, head of the private Investment and Exports Corporation, said the outlook for 2000 is dark due to the virus. "This year we'll see a 30 percent contraction in the sector. Next year will see more problems and (shrimp) exports will be around $500 million," he said. Estrada sees recovery for the sector beginning in the second half of 2000. - (Reuters)