How pandemic is affecting shrimp producers

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BROWNSVILLE, Texas – With most restaurants still closed, shrimp buyers are either not purchasing products or bidding low for shrimp.

“As the COVID virus, you know increased, we were then told by the shrimp buyers that they’ve completely stopped bidding on the shrimp so that scared us to death,” said Andrea Hance, president of the Texas Shrimp Association.

About two months ago, one of Andrea Hance’s boats came in with about 10,000 pounds of shrimp.

Hance said on average the price of shrimp that they get from the boat is about $5, but buyers were not willing to pay that much.

“They were coming back after they told us that they were not going to bid at all, you pressure them a little bit and then they said well we’ll give you a bid, but you’re not going to like it,” said Hance. “Well we ended up selling our shrimp for $3 a pound so we lost quite a bit of money on the last trip.”

These are prices that John Keil Burnell, who is one of the owners of Shrimp Outlet in Brownsville, is seeing.

“It hurts because they explain to us that it’s the imports that’s doing it to us and the imports are keeping our prices low,” said Burnell. “Then we turn around and see the prices that they mark it even now with fewer imports coming in, the price is super high, but the price of the boat is super low.”

While Burnell said they are just getting by, his biggest fear is going out of business.

“Losing our livelihood, generations of families completely going to the wind,” said Burnell.

While Hance said it won’t be a profitable year for shrimpers, they remain optimistic.

“Most of these shrimpers since the fuel prices are low, they’re sending their boats to go out and fish and they’re just gambling, hoping the prices will come up a little bit you know within the next few months,” said Hance.

Both Hance and Burnell encourage the public to read labels when you are buying shrimp as many assume they are eating shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico or other parts of the U.S., but in reality, most of the shrimp people consume is from foreign countries.

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