Shrimp in Iran

Commercial shrimp farming in Iran started out in 1993 with only 40 ha of farming-area, from which it grew gradually as knowledge, infrastructure, and feed systems improved. The outbreak of white spot disease in 2002 in Chouideh (Khouzestan) and in 2005 in Boushehr caused major economic problems. Shrimp farmers switched from using their native Fenneropenaeus indicus (Indian prawn) to start from scratch with Litopenaeus vannamei (whiteleg shrimp). Recovering from the obstacles in 2005, statistics from the last few years show a significant growth both in production volume and export of Iranian cultured shrimp. Nowadays, the total farming area covers 9,259 ha and produced 32,331 tonnes in 2017. Most of the production is taking place in the southern provinces, and shrimp are produced by around 680 small, family-owned farms. Iran has more to offer in the future, when it comes to cultured shrimp, as production levels are yet to realize their full potential. As there are still some major problems that stand in the way of the industry reaching its full potential, several strategies and action plans have been proposed to improve and increase the production efficiency.  Private and public authorities are expecting that cultured shrimp production will reach more than 30,000 MT in the upcoming years, of which about 20,000 MT is estimated to be exported. However, after the United States’ abrogation of the the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and its reinstatement of a broader scope of sanctions, the future of Iranian exports is uncertain.


Sourcing news

Shrimp production and export statistics

Species wise production

Source: FAO (2018)

Iranian cultured shrimp production more than doubled from 2011 to 2015. By 2015, cultured shrimp counted for nearly 2% of the total seafood production in Iran with almost 18,000 MT, and it is expected to continue growing.

White Indian shrimp (P. indicus) used to be the species farmed in Iran, but as a consequence of the outbreak of

white spot syndrome in 2005, farms had to change species entirely. After cooperation with Vietnam, which provided production expertise and introduced Litopenaeus Vannamei (whiteleg shrimp), L. Vannamei is now the dominant cultured species in Iran's production systems.

Shrimp is also wild captured in Iran, accounting between 7,000 to 8,000 MT yearly. As opposed to cultured shrimp, however, wild capture shrimp production volumes are fluctuating and decreasing due to factors like overfishing. Although action plans for improvement have been proposed, cultured shrimp will be of the utmost importance for the future of Iran’s shrimp production.

The aquaculture sector in Iran has a lot of potentials. An increase in production volumes is expected in the coming years if the main issues, such as poor feeding management and insufficient use of quality feed, are addressed. In addition, investment in new and innovative technology is needed to bring the sector to the next level.

District wise production (hectares) in 2017

Source: Iran Fisheries Production & Trading Union (IFPTU)

With a production of over 32,331 MT of cultured shrimp in 2017, both the amount of land used and the production levels have increased from the previous years. 8277.1 hectares were used for shrimp production in 2017, which is an increase of 17% in land use compared to 2014. The

majority is farmed in the southern provinces of Boushehr and Hormozgan, which accounted for 89% (28,762 MT) of the total shrimp production volume. In addition, a small amount of cultured shrimp is produced in northern province Khouzestan.

Favorable climatic conditions, such as suitable water quality and space availability, make the long southern coastline of Iran an ideal spot for the production and further development of cultured shrimp.

Export markets

Source: Iran Fisheries Production & Trading Union (IFPTU) (2018)

As the numbers from major importers of Iranian shrimp have not been reported, the figures from Trademap do not fully represent the quantity of shrimp that was exported over the last five years. For this reason, IFBTU data is used, which reported that over 15,000 MT of shrimp was exported in 2016, valued at over US$ 70 mln.

Vietnam is the largest importer of Iranian shrimp, which is re-

exported to China. As the import tariffs on Iranian shrimp for Vietnam are very low but for China very high (26%), Vietnam benefits by acting as a middleman as Iranian shrimp is a popular product in China.

After the Iran trade embargo in 2006, European companies were not interested in buying shrimp from Iran and shipping lines stopped delivering containers to Europe. As the relationship between China and Iran remained intact during the embargo the shrimp export shifted to China (through Vietnam).

Another important market is the United Arab Emirates, whose imports had been increasing steadily, but showed some decline in 2016. In addition to the UAE, other Arabic neighbors are also important markets for Iranian shrimp. As sanctions placed on Iran are in the process of being lifted, trade relations and new agreements are being formed. The EU market is of particular interest for Iranian shrimp exporters, to reduce their dependency on the Chinese market. However, the EU is currently put in a difficult position under new imposed sanctions by the US in 2018.

It is forecasted that the production of shrimp will grow significantly in the upcoming years, and Iranian industry professionals estimate that the quantity of shrimp being exported in 2017 will climb to 21,000 MT.

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Risk assessment

Environmental risks

  • High organic loading of waste water from the shrimp farms and its impact on the natural environment
  • Inattention to the farms’ stocking  density which creates bacterial and viral diseases
  • Possibility of localization of pathogenic viruses in wild shrimp species of the region

Social risks

  • Local clashes among smugglers and farm owners (i.e. fuel)
  • Cultural conflicts between non-local investors and the locals
  • Shortage of skilled workers and the conflicts with fishery and agriculture sectors

Quality and supply chain risks

  • Economic problems caused by stagnation, foreign currency exchange rate, interest rate, etc.
  • Risk of not fulfilling professional obligations by one of the chain members
  • Competition between local and export markets especially with the increase of the foreign currency rate
  • Dependency on Chinese market due to China becoming the only export market for Iranian shrimp

Species in Iran

Click on the species and find out more about the species in Iran