Australia exports high-value seafood such as rock lobster and abalone, while importing items such as canned fish and frozen prawns. These lesser value products come from countries with lower labour costs, particularly Vietnam, China and Thailand.
The majority of raw prawn imports to Australia are from Asia. In 2015-16, the major importing countries were China (6,720 tonnes), Malaysia (2,307 tonnes), Vietnam (1,354 tonnes), Indonesia (604 tonnes) and Thailand (197 tonnes). Between 2009-10 and 2015-16, 88 429 tonnes of uncooked prawns were imported into Australia. The value of imported prawns into the Australian market in 2015-16 was $400.87 million.
Australia produces 20,000 to 25,000 tonnes of prawns annually through prawn aquaculture and wild catch. This volume is not adequate to meet the existing domestic demand for raw, green prawns. Australia would need to double its prawn production to meet this demand.
With such high volumes of seafood imports required to meet demand, it remains imperative that Australia has effective biosecurity controls to ensure that exotic diseases in any imported products do not enter Australia. As evidenced by the recent white spot disease (WSD) outbreak, such diseases can have disastrous impacts on local seafood industries.