Groundfish Market Report - June 2009
Lower prices of Alaska pollack reported
The groundfish market continues to be well supplied
and prices are declining. More availability of Alaska
pollack from Russia has created a downward
spiral for groundfish prices. Demand is not
expected to improve in coming months.
As far as the Alaska pollock fillet market in
Europe is concerned, imports into Germany and France experienced a growth in
2008, by 7.5% (to 176 800 tonnes) and by 9% (to 41 500 tonnes) respectively. The
increase in imports of this product in both the German and the French market
was due to greater shipments from China, +14% to 89 700 tonnes in Germany and
+17% to 21 700 tonnes in France.
The 18.5% reduction in the US Alaska pollock quota
to 815 000 tonnes is forcing Europe’s
buyers (who are used to a high availability and relatively low price for frozen-at-sea
pollock from the USA) to turn to other whitefish as
alternatives, or buy double-frozen pollock from
Russia and China (lower price and improved quality).
The alternatives considered are species such as cod, and farmed pangasius and tilapia which are traditionally more
expensive than Alaska pollock. Pollock processors
who are looking at switching species are showing a preference for
double-frozen Pollock from China. Currently twice-frozen Pollock is fetching
the same price as pangasius; therefore processors
will oft for Pollock. The difference in price between the single- and
double-frozen pollock is very high at the moment. If
the economic situation recovers in 2010 and demand increases but the US pollock quota drops once again, there could be a severe
supply problem. The supply situation may deteriorate further if predictions
by Russia that Pollock will migrate from the US towards the colder waters
along the Russian coast actually take place. This is a cause for concern for
seafood companies. Since 1999, it is the lowest quota for USD (815 000 tonnes
in 2009) and it is extremely difficult for other fish to fill this gap. On
one hand the need to diversify is encouraging buyers and consumers to look at
other species, on the other the consumers’ interest in Alaska pollock cannot be satisfied.
High pollock prices in 2008 have caused sluggish
sales in Japan and further deterioration of the seafood market is forecast
under the impact of global economic recession. The rising wholesale prices of
North American pollock have been caused by quota
cutbacks. The rise in Alaska pollock prices
occurred in December 2008 passing from 1.93 USD/lb to 2.00 USD/lb. Prices have
remained stable since.
Alaska’s pollock fishery
has begun the assessment process which is required in order to continue
certification under the Marine Stewardship Council’s
sustainable seafood program.
The Gulf of Alaska Pollock fishery and the Bering sea and Aleutian islands pollock fishery, which together account for 100 % of the
targeted catch for Alaska pollock, were first
certified in February 2005. Each certificate is valid for five years in order
to ensure that the fisheries continue to meet MSC standards. The assessment
includes the status of the fish stock, the impact that the fishery has on the
marine ecosystem, and the management system overseeing the fishery.
In last ‘A’ season, the import
prices of US ‘A’ season surimi surged by JY130-150
per kilo, rising by a further JY90-100 in the ‘B’ season in the latter half of the year. These
price hikes were due to pollock quota cutbacks in
the U.S which pushed up prices of surimi from other
countries as well as Japanese-produced surimi. The
higher US prices stimulated producers in Japan and Asian
countries to boost their surimi production. The pollock catch rate in the US ‘A’ season (which opened on January 20) was
24% of the overall quota (as of February 14)
However, partly due to the increased supply of lower-grade products, the
prices of surimi, mainly coming from Asian
countries, declined sharply. As the prices of Asian surimi,
including itoyori (golden threadfin bream) surimi, continue to fall, importers suggest that the
prices of ‘A’ season surimi
may not be set before May, the Golden Week holiday in Japan.
Higher surimi imports into France
In 2008 both the quantity and value of surimi
imported into France increased significantly, while the country’s production of surimi
products more than doubled, reaching EUR 42.1 million (USD 53.1 million). While
the demand for surimi on the world market is
600 000 tonnes annually, supply is constantly shrinking, and traders expect
it will not cover demand for 2009. The cut in Alaska pollock
quota and the situation in Chile both contributed to reduced surimi raw material in 2008. The US is the largest market
for French imports of surimi with 18 621 tonnes. Other
important markets are Viet Nam, Chile, Thailand and Argentina.
Alaska pollack market is expected to continue
All major indicators go for a depressed Alaska pollack
market also in coming months. Supply should be sufficient, while demand
worldwide is expected to stay rather low. The main importing countries will
show lower imports, while alternative species such as pangasius
and tilapia will go strong.