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US Tuna Crisis Makes Thailand’s Imports Sink To 2009 Levels Thailand, January 16, 13

Thailand, the world’s largest tuna producer, significantly reduced its imports of raw tuna material last year, as it battled supply shortages, high raw material prices and a U.S. tuna market in crisis. In 2012, the nation’s import of frozen whole round tuna dropped by 12% compared to 2011 to hit just over 680,000 tons. This volume has dropped back again near to 2009 levels.
Thailand is the leading supplier to the US canned tuna market and with major American tuna brands facing a severe problem in declining consumer demand, Thai processors seem to be feeling the disastrous effect. Last year, Thailand imported about 90,000 tons less of frozen whole round tuna, which is practically equivalent to the change experienced in the US market. In 2012, the total canned tuna volume to the U.S. shrank by one quarter to 20.7 million cartons, or if converted, about 100,000 tons of raw material.

Taiwan, the top supplier to Thailand, shipped marginally less last year, but compared to two years ago, its volume has decreased by 29% to hit roughly 153,000 tons. The US purse seiner fleet shipped a lot less raw frozen tuna to Bangkok, reducing their volumes by 30% and the Korean fleet volumes only dropped slightly by 6%.

Vanuatu, in fourth position, also saw its exports shrink considerably from 2010. In 2012, the small Pacific island country sent about 70,700 tons compared to about 102,400 tons three years ago.
Maldives which is solely doing pole-and-line catches , saw its exported volume to Thailand drop dramatically by 46% last year to hit only about 11,700 tons, just enough raw material to pack 325 20ft containers of canned pole and line skipjack tuna.
Spain also directed a lot less tuna from their Indian ocean fleet to Bangkok going from 31,800 tons in 2011 to just 7,200 tons in 2012.
Besides the catastrophe in the US, Thailand was also challenged by low raw material supply and the record high prices associated with it. The import of frozen skipjack whole round tuna, which accounts for about 75% of Thailand’s raw material imports and peaked near USD 2,300 per ton in 2012, was particularly hard hit, dropping by about 19% from 2011 to reach roughly 514,000 tons. Thailand’s imports of frozen whole round albacore and yellowfin grew last year, however.