By: Les Hodges (April 7th, 2016)
Canadian Opilio is beginning to arrive in Boston from some areas with the official opening of the major Newfoundland fishery. The Newfoundland crab quota is set at 43,802 m/t and an initial boat price of $3.00/lb. although in some areas the price is already increasing. Prices on initial sales to first receivers in Boston are up significantly up vs. 2015. The question is what will happen when the channels are full.
In the Far East, Russian crab catchers continue their focus on live vs. processed. Minato Tsukiji reported this past week that Russian producers intend to increase live deliveries of Snow and King crab from about 6,000 m/t in 2015 to 10,000 m/t in 2016. So in spite of a larger quota and increase in deliveries to the U.S., less may be available over 2016.
Alaskan Opilio fishermen have caught 93% of the quota being taken as of this date. There is little product being offered and prices are high. Alaska Bairdi season is also over and we find that some users have moved to larger Bairdi Snow crab to fill their requirements. The cost is not much higher than Opilio and this is simply a superior product.
This newsletter is divided into two sections: one, a section on “REGIONAL CRAB FISHING” which details the latest harvest data; and two, a section on regional “REGIONAL MARKET UPDATES” which discusses imports, marketing trends and more.
REGIONAL CRAB FISHING >
Alaska Crab Fishing:
The Bering Sea Red King crab fishery for 2015 is finished with limited finished inventories remaining in the U.S. market.
The Alaska Bairdi Snow crab quota has been caught. The Eastern Zone produced 10.138mm lbs. and the Western Zone 7.539mm lbs. Quality throughout the season was excellent. The majority of the product this season is under 12oz in size so slightly smaller than 2015. This product is an excellent value compared to new Opilio snow crab pricing. Bairdi is larger and the flavor profile is simply better.
The Alaska Opilio quota for 2015/6 was reduced -40% from last year’s 67mm lb. to 40.6 mm lbs. 33.818mm lbs. of Opilio or 93% of the quota has been harvested as of 3/6/16.
Canada Crab Fishing:
The Newfoundland Crab Quota for 2016 was set by DFO @ 43,802 m/t down about 10% from last year. Shore price is set at $3.00/lb. vs. $2.45/lb. in 2015. A source advised that a few smaller areas have already increased prices to $3.45/lb. Some Japan contracts have been concluded and U.S. opening prices to first receivers Boston are significantly higher than 2015. These prices are expected to drop once the channels are somewhat full.
Norway Crab Fishing:
The Norway King crab season began on January 1 and is ongoing. Live King crab is a focus and sales to Korea in February were up to 147 m/t vs. 11 m/t in 2015. Year to date exports to Korea are 223 m/t vs. 57 m/t in 2015. Frozen king crab sales are up to 184 m/t vs. 101 m/t year to date in 2015. Snow crab exports were up 64% in February and year to date now setting at 525 m/t for the first two months of 2016. Major markets on frozen King and Snow crab were Japan and the U.S.
Russian Crab Fishing:
There are 27 Russian vessels fishing crab in the Far East as of March 23 plus a similar number of vessels fishing in the Barents Sea area for Opilio. 8 vessels are fishing Bairdi Snow crab, 1 on Blue King crab, 4 on brown king crab, 3 fishing Opilio, and 5 on deep-water Red crab. Most of the Bairdi Snow crab vessels are producing fresh frozen for the Asia market along with 27% of total producers fishing live crab. The Sea Ice concentration ice has receded substantially as of 3/25 and vessels are back on Brown King crab as well as other specie.
REGIONAL CRAB MARKET REPORTS:
Fish and seafood demand has grown rapidly in China including premium items such as live Dungeness crab, King crab, and Lobster. The China market for live seafood continues to grow with primary high value items being King crab, lobster and Dungeness crab. Some Snow crab have been delivered, but this crab is not as strong as the other specie showing higher reported dead loss.
It was reported by Seafood.com that the Russians have moved on from agreements to shut off IUU fishing on crab to Japan and Korea and are now focused on China. An agreement to shut down IUU crab deliveries to China was reached at the last session of the Joint Russian –Chinese Commission for Fisheries Cooperation. Details will be announced later this year.
The ¥ continues to strengthen each month in 2016 and now sits at 109.9¥/USD as of 4/6/16. This represents an 8% increase since 1/1/16!
Japan crab imports for February including meat were up 21% to 5,795 m/t. Processed King crab and Snow crab imports in January were up 26% and 109% respectively to 448 m/t on King and 1153m/t on Snow crab. Imports of U.S. frozen Snow crab were down slightly at 282m/t vs. 300m/t in 2015.
The halt in IUU fishing and the Japan/Russia treaty sent imports of live crab plummeting last year and this is continuing into 2016. Imports were 6 m/t on live king crab and 18 m/t on snow crab in January.
Korea import numbers were not available at the time of this newsletter, but we are aware that 25-30% of the Russian vessels in the Far East are fishing live crab with most deliveries to Korea.
Prices of Russian live Snow and King were up in January and similar at $28.60/kg for snow and $28.98 for King crab. The live snow crab price equates to an amazing $12.97 lb. This price gives the producer no incentive to process for the frozen market. Russian King crab is preferred over the alternative better-packaged Norwegian King crab due to price.
U.S. imports of King crab from Russia through February are up 392.4% at 6.432mm lbs. vs. the same period in 2015. For the month of February imports were us 319% to 2.887mm lbs. Argentine Santolla red crab was – 48.6% in February. Year to date Santolla was -32.6% to 678.2 mm lbs. vs. 1,006mm lbs. in 2015. Total king crab category is up 201.7% through February at 7.140mm lbs.
In spite of the above large import increases so far in 2016, U.S. and Russian King crab prices were stable in March according to Urner Barry with almost no reported price changes from February. Limited supply continues on mid size and small King crab. The best value based on price and quality is large size 9/12 count Red King crab.
The Russian King crab supply for the U.S. going forward will continue to be tight as the impact of the live crab business in Asia cuts into what would normally be processed. Only Brown King crab has no live market and will come to the U.S. unless it’s purchased for the King crab meat market. Brown crab fishing has been good and we expect most will come to the U.S.
Alaska King crab is finished and in limited hands. Demand for the product continues with a price premium on Alaskan over Russian product. Sellers are allocating product to have inventory for customers as the inventory must last next season in mid- October.
Snow crab imports from all sources were up through February compared to 2015 by 46.9% or 4.314mm lbs. The primary increases were from Russia up 20% year to date at 2.088mm lbs. and the all other category up 1,017% to 1.245mm lbs. The later contains product from Norway, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Snow crab led the way in March at retail chains representing 68% of crab ads followed by king crab with 30%. Some major retailers and food service operators continue to promote only Alaska crab due the excellent management of the resource.
A number of users have moved to larger Alaska Bairdi Snow crab. The quality of the new season Alaska Bairdi Snow crab is excellent and most of the inventory is comprised of under 12oz size.
Canadian Opilio Snow crab season is underway with the Newfoundland Crab Quota set at 43,802 m/t and a $3.00 grounds price. A few areas have already increased their price to $3.45/lb. after only a few days.
The first containers of new production Canadian Snow crab in Boston have been sold to first receivers at much higher prices than last year. A dry market and high asking prices for Alaskan Opilio have led the way. Even with the estimated 10% overall reduction in Canadian catch projected for 2016, many marketers believe that these prices may not hold once substantial inventory hits the market. Retail and food service support is vital for Snow crab and high prices could hold back features.
Russian Deep-water Japonicus and Angulatus Snow crab inventories in the US are lower than last year at this time as some offloads are staying in Korea. The popular Korean buffet business is consuming more of this inexpensive product.
Santolla Southern Red crab:
Argentine Southern Red crab that is reported under the King crab category is up and new deliveries of new season Santolla is taking place although at slower rate than 2015.
The California commercial fishery is underway with catch slow. This season starting this late is simply a financial disaster for the fishermen. Last year California fishermen caught 16.8 mm lbs. of Dungeness worth $58.3 million dollars.
Prices are continuing high with limited supply on both clusters and whole cooks.