The Brazilian market for shrimp remains a high risk for Ecuadorian exporters because of the continued threat of tariff barriers.

Ecuador's shrimp industry recently called on the Brazilian government to overhaul its phytosanitary health risk policy relating to imports of foreign shrimp, which has been blamed for hindering the flow of shipments into Brazil.

Ecuador has long said Brazil should work in tandem with its producers to grow the market rather than fearing competition, something the Brazilian industry will likely continue to ignore given it is expecting production to grow by 20 percent in 2023 aided by an explosion of small-scale producers in the northeast of the country.

Itamar Rocha, president of Brazilian shrimp producers trade body ABCC, rejected those claims and said there is more than meets the eye to Ecuador's low rate of shrimp shipments.

"They don't have the distribution capacity," Rocha told IntraFish.

In the first 11 months of 2022, Ecuador shipped 212,301 pounds of farmed shrimp to Brazil worth $612,865 (€566,523), representing declines of 49 percent and 54 percent, respectively, in volume and value.

These shipments were just a tiny fraction of exports to key markets such as China, the United States and the European Union.

In May 2019, after a protracted legal battle, the first consignment of frozen imported shrimp was allowed into Brazil following a Supreme Court ruling that opened the way for Ecuadorian producers to begin shipping shrimp to Brazil.

Since then, imports of Ecuadorian shrimp have trickled in, and the absence of Ecuadorian exhibitors at October's Seafood Latin America trade fair in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was noticeable.

"Ecuador could export to Brazil without a problem, but as long as there are tariff barriers, the market simply becomes very high-risk," Jose Antonio Camposano, president of shrimp producers' trade body Camara Nacional de Aquacultura (CNA) said.

Brazilian producers have time and again returned to a familiar strategy, arguing that imported shrimp may be carrying disease harmful to local production, despite frequent accusations they are engaging in protectionism to keep prices artificially high.