Any increase in the price of shrimp due to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico should be miniscule, according to Dave Serrurier, one of the owners of the Great Midwest Seafood Co. in Davenport.
He said the main reason for only minor price hikes is that about 90 percent of all shrimp consumed in the United States is imported .
"We get shrimp from the Gulf and from all over the world," he said. "I talked to one broker on Friday, and he said some packing plants are just taking shrimp off the market and they will reassess in a week or two.
"Some prices have gone up. Shrimp is the big one in the Gulf. You might see some slight increase in prices, but I just don't know."
However, Steve McNitt, national sales manager for Schafer Fisheries Inc. in Thomsen, Ill., believes the oil spill could lead to much higher prices for all ocean seafood, including lobster, shrimp and red snapper.
"It will have a massive impact on the retailer and consumer, especially if other places are not able to meet the demand," he said. "We might see a real escalation in price. It's definitely going to have an effect."
McNitt said even during disasters, wholesalers can take advantage of the situation by holding on to their product and see how much they can get in the market.
In addition to its wholesale business in Thomsen, Schafer has a retail fish store near Fulton. McNitt said he sells to large wholesalers all over the country who, in turn, sell to grocery outlets and restaurants. "But we are 90 percent freshwater fish," he said.
Serrurier, whose business also offers a retail store and wholesale business, said once shrimp and other seafood are removed from the ocean, the product is shipped to a processor and eventually to packing plants that store it until it is sold. He sells primarily to restaurants and some grocery stores.
But it appears it is too soon to determine how much prices might go up.
Paul Simon, spokesman for Schnuck's, a St. Louis-based grocery chain with a store in Bettendorf, said there is no way to know at the moment whether the situation in the Gulf will make seafood prices jump.
"The short-term impact will be minimal," he said. "We are in a wait-and-see mode."
Simon said Schnuck's buys seafood from the Gulf in addition to other areas around the world.
Hy-Vee, an Iowa-based grocery store chain with locations across the Quad-Cities, said it expects to see very little effect in the near-term.
"For Louisiana Gulf shrimp, we are fairly well positioned right now,'' Hy-Vee spokeswoman Ruth Comer said. "Just shortly before the oil spill, we had purchased a large quantity of shrimp based on the market. The prices had been rising just as a supply-and-demand function before the oil spill."
She said the company watches the markets daily and noticed that shrimp prices were beginning to rise.
"Our buyer is looking like a genius right now,'' she joked.
As far as other seafood, she said shrimp is the main product that Hy-Vee purchases from the Gulf. The store's fish mostly comes from Florida waters, which have not yet been affected. Most of the oysters Hy-Vee buys come from the East Coast.
"We do get the largest amount of shrimp from the Gulf. But it's not our only supplier," Comer added.