The Indian government moved to intervene in the domestic prawn market, in order to halt falling prices amid surging COVID-19 cases. Second-wave Infection rates have escalated through 2021, surpassing 400,000 new daily cases during the first week of May 2021, raising the total Indian death toll above 200,000; second only to the US and Brazil. Indian prawn farmers in the main producing state of Andhra Pradesh have reportedly conducted premature partial harvests, fearful of an imminent social lockdown. However, tepid domestic demand and international competition has forced Indian farmers to discount wholesale prices, in order to secure volumes. This is reflected across the Mintec price series for Indian prawns of varying weights.
The Mintec price of 30-count per kg whiteleg prawns fell by INR 35/kg (-7%) to INR 450/kg during the four-months to May 2021. Similar price declines were noted across all size categories through the same period, plunging average prices to eight-month lows. The fishing commissioner of the state of Andhra Pradesh stated that some buyers were deliberately ‘creating panic in the name of COVID-19, encouraging farmers to forced harvests and reduced prices, despite there being no change in export value.’ In response, the commissioner has set individual guidance prices for all whiteleg prawn sizes from 20 -count per kg to 100-count per kg categories, with the threat of punishing those who attempt to buy below this level. While such measures should provide some short-term price support, many stakeholders feel the perceived risk to holding stock is overstated, and that farmers should continue to grow their crop, rather than premature harvesting at discount prices.