Prawn noodle

Warmwater prawn prices have fallen in time for the expected rush in demand by UK consumers - but coldwater prawn prices have almost doubled.

The past couple of years have been turbulent for prices of all prawns, but ahead of the traditional summer increase in consumption, stocks of the warmwater variety recovered after previously being hit by an outbreak of early mortality syndrome.

The disease struck the crustacean’s main habitat in tropical areas around the equator in 2013. This led to reduced supply and caused Thai prawn prices to rise by more than 75% from £3.20 per kg at the start of 2013 to more than £5.70 in April.

Stocks have since started to recover, with the Thai Shrimp Association this week reporting that it expected output to rise by 5% to 10% above last year’s haul of 230,000 tonnes. This has been reflected by a fall in the price of Thai prawns, dropping by 15% over the past two months to £4.85 per kg.

In contrast, the price of coldwater prawns – which account for a third of the 85,000 tonnes of prawns consumed in the UK every year – has soared by 87% over the past few months.

Although volatile, fresh coldwater prawn prices have generally been on a downward trend over the past two years as a result of high supply. Prices for fresh coldwater prawns from Sweden and Norway fell from about £13 per kg in January 2013 to just £4 per kg in February 2015.

However, prices have been increasing since then due to a reduction in the EU’s total allowable catch limit, with European production down 14% compared with last year to 73,000 tonnes. Global production is forecast to be down 12% year on year, to 235,000 tonnes.

Low prices in 2014 and the start of 2015 also led major producers to look to replace warmwater prawns with the coldwater variety – putting further pressure on supplies. As a result, coldwater prawn prices have risen 87%, from £4 per kg in February to between £7.50 and £8 per kg in April.

Emma Jayne Smith is a market analyst at Mintec