Import restrictions will kick up price of prawns

Import restrictions will kick up price of prawns

BASSENDEAN customers will be affected by a rise in the demand for and the price of WA prawns due to state and national restrictions on importing uncooked prawns, two seafood wholesalers have said.

The Federal Government suspended overseas imports of uncooked prawns and uncooked prawn meat on January 9 for six months due to the risk of white spot disease and inability to meet sanitary protection levels.

According to the WA Department of Fisheries, white spot disease (WSD) is a highly contagious viral infection that affects crustaceans. It was detected on four prawn farms in Queensland but does not pose a threat to humans or food safety.

WA Department of Fisheries have imposed a restriction on live or uncooked prawns and polychaete worms from areas that tested positive for the disease.

Mark Lupica, of Catalano’s Seafood Bassendean, said they did not import farmed prawns from Queensland but supply of WA and South Australian prawns would tighten due to the ban.

“The prawn prices are on the rise already due to a poor catch prior to Christmas,” he said.

“Next prawn season in Australia starts May, so due to the loss of farmed prawns for other suppliers, they have now targeted local prawns which has diminished supply until the new season.

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“Luckily we still have a fair bit of stock from last season, so hopefully it will last us and our customers till the new season.”

Global Seafoods managing director Kim Ryland said the restrictions had affected consumers and raw prawn retailers and wholesalers in Australia.

“The price of raw prawns has already increased by 10 to 30 per cent as a direct result of the new restrictions. Cooked prawn prices have not increased,” he said.

“Global Seafoods will cope with the restrictions without too much problem as we do not rely too heavily on raw prawns and we have a diverse range of products and customers.”

WA Department of Fisheries marine biosecurity senior management officer Marion Massam said the risk of WSD was considered to be low in WA due to the state restrictions and Federal Government’s suspension.

“WSD is highly contagious and if it entered WA waters could impact many valuable commercial and recreational fisheries such as prawns, crabs, shrimp, marron and other crustaceans, as well as aquaculture ventures,” she said.

Ms Massam said the restrictions were expected to stay in place for the next few months.