Short supplies and rising prices

Supplies of octopus and squid appear to be tighter this year. As a consequence, prices have started to go up and they will keep rising. The developing trade war between the United States of America and China is also contributing to problems.


There was a lack of octopus in the market in the spring this year. Landings both in Morocco and Mauritania were low. The lack of supplies pushed prices up dramatically.

Morocco’s octopus season was delayed by one month until 30 June. The Government took this action after consulting with the industry. Last season, only 65 percent of the total quota was landed. Catches have been declining for some time and the delayed season is an attempt to improve the resource.

The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) has announced that it has established a fishery improvement project in order to promote sustainable octopus fishery in Mauritania. The Mauritanian octopus fishery is an important source of supply to the global cephalopod market, and it is desirable to bring this fishery to a sustainable state.

The Scientific Certification Systems Global (SCS Global) has been undertaking a pre-assessment of the sustainability of an octopus fishery off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The octopus fishery and the red grouper fishery represent the most important resource in this region, with an annual catch fluctuating between 9?000 and 16?000 tonnes.


Octopus prices on world markets have been very high recently. In April, prices on the US market were 28 percent higher that in 2016, according to Spanish exporter Discefa. Prices for Moroccan frozen on board octopus reached USD?17.00 per kg for size T1.

Viet Nam’s exports of octopus and squid are increasing dramatically this year. According to figures published by the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), exports of cephalopods to the Russian Federation during the first three months of 2018 amounted to over USD?1 million, up almost nine times compared to the same period in 2017. The Russian Federation is now one of the most important markets for Vietnamese octopus and squid, and accounts for more than 90 percent of the export value of Viet Nam’s octopus.

Japanese imports of octopus in the first quarter of 2018 totalled to 8?900 tonnes, slightly up compared to 2017. However, there were changes in the suppliers. Morocco and China experienced reduced shipments to Japan, while Viet Nam saw an increase.

Korean imports of octopus have been on a declining trend for some time, but during the first three months of 2018, the trend levelled off. Imports during this period in 2018 amounted to 16?400 tonnes, just 4.5 percent less than in 2017.


The Peruvian Ministry of Production (PRODUCE) set the quota for the 2018 giant squid fishery at 609?000 tonnes. This quota may be changed later, based on recommendations from the Maritime Institute of Peru (IMARPE). The stock is in good shape, according to the Ministry. Average annual catches of giant squid in Peru have been around 500?000 tonnes for several years.

Illex squid catches inside Argentine waters have been good. During the first three months of the year, Illex catches were up by 15 percent over last year. This fishery started earlier than usual this year because many Chinese and Taiwanese vessels were already active just outside the Argentine exclusive economic zone (EEZ). During the second quarter of the year there have been reports of very poor production.

For the Chinese (mainland and Taiwan Province) vessels operating outside the EEZ, the shortfin squid fishery has been disappointing. As the fishery drew to a close in late April, vessels operating in international waters off Argentina had caught 110?000 tonnes of squid. This was just half of the volume caught by these vessels in 2017. Observers expected prices to rise as a consequence. Much of this catch was destined for China, and Chinese prices for squid were already rising in late April.

The Loligo fishery in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) also started very well. During the first month some 20?000 tonnes were landed. A survey carried out in February indicated that there were aggregations of small squid only in the southern region. Soon after the fishery started, larger aggregations of squid were found also in the north. Because of the smaller size of the squid found in the south, this fishery was closed for a week at the end of March for conservation purposes.


Poor catches by Chinese vessels operating just outside the Argentine EEZ contributed to increasing prices of practically all species of squid in China. Reported catches per vessel were down to 300¬500 tonnes, while average catch per vessel last year was about 800 tonnes. Prices were up by 2¬6 percent in mid-April compared to the beginning of 2018. Prices for Todarodes pacificus squid, which is caught mainly in East Asia, were also up.

US President Trump’s trade war is creating negative effects for US seafood exporters even before it is in effect. Chinese squid importers stopped ordering US squid because they feared shipments would not reach them before the 25 percent extra import tariff goes into effect in mid-July. This is also unfavourable for the US squid industry. In 2017, about half of the US exports of squid went to China. China imported 34?700 tonnes of squid worth USD?92.8 million. The second largest importer of US squid was Viet Nam, which imported 8?900 tonnes, and the third largest importer was Japan, with 8?100 tonnes. Chinese importers are looking for other suppliers, which are difficult to come by because of lower production overall. Consequently, squid supplies may be very tight in the coming months, and prices will be high.

Japanese imports of squid and cuttlefish marginally declined during the first three months of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017. Total imports of these species went down from 36?400 tonnes in 2017 to 30?900 tonnes in 2018 (-15.1 percent). China is by far the largest supplier, accounting for 73.4 percent of the total.

China exported 12 percent more squid and cuttlefish in the first three months of 2018 than in the same period in 2017. Total exports amounted to 131?100 tonnes. The main markets were the Republic of Korea, Japan and Thailand. Chinese imports of the same products remained level. Total imports of squid and cuttlefish during the first quarter of the year reached 42?000 tonnes, with Indonesia and the United States of America being the two main suppliers.

Spanish imports of squid and cuttlefish declined from 57?300 tonnes during the first three months of 2017 to 50?900 tonnes during the same period in 2018 (-11.2 percent). The main reductions were registered in exports from “other countries”, while the main supplier, China, held its own, and the second largest supplier, the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), increased its shipments by 262 percent.

US imports of squid and cuttlefish during the first three months of 2018 declined slightly by 1.3 percent to 17?700 tonnes. Imports from the largest supplier, China, accounted for as much as 61.7 percent (10?900 tonnes). Other major suppliers included India (10.4 percent of total) and Taiwan Province of China (7.6 percent of total).


The cephalopod market should expect tight supplies, especially for squid, but also for octopus. While catches inside Argentina’s EEZ have been fairly good, catches by foreign vessels outside this EEZ have been poor. In addition, the developing trade war between the United States of America and China is creating supply problems. Prices have come up noticeably, and may go further up.