Swordfish demand, prices edge up
By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
15 June, 2009 -
Swordfish ex-vessel prices have strengthened somewhat this year, thanks, in part, to higher demand and lower global supplies earlier this year.
"The demand for swordfish is better than it has been in the past. The average price is about 50 cents better [at wholesale], then in prior years, which might be because of a shortage of supply," said Scott Vitrone, fresh purchasing and sales manager for Pacific Trade International and South Bay Seafood in Hilo, Hawaii.
Pacific Trade is seeing ex-vessel prices ranging from USD 3.25 to 3.75 a pound for 100-plus pound fresh swordfish, and the company is wholesaling it for USD 4.25 to 4.75 a pound.
In addition, U.S. swordfish imports dropped significantly in value earlier this year, from USD 11.3 million in the first quarter of 2008 to USD 8.4 million for the same three-month period this year.
Still, the Hawaiian fishery is strong this season, which kicked off in January and is winding down in mid-June.
"We had a pretty robust season by late April and early May. During one 10-day period, we brought in 300,000 pounds," said Bob Fram, president of Garden & Valley Isle Seafood in Honolulu. "Last season, we didn't have quite as much [volume], and it started as a steadier, slower season."
Depending on the bloodline of the swordfish, ex-vessel prices in Hawaii range from USD 2.50 to 5 a pound, H&G.
"Now [in June] they are getting USD 5, because there is less availability [with the season winding down], and that is only for the good stuff," said Fram.
Meanwhile, Vitrone attributes the heightened demand to more restaurants and retailers using swordfish.
"Demand has come back a bit since they first did the ‘Give Swordfish a Break' campaign," said Vitrone, referring to a swordfish conservation campaign launched in the late ‘1990s by SeaWeb.
At the same time, buyers worry about future sales of swordfish, given the uncertainty surrounding the U.S. economy.
"We will have to see now, with the way the economy is and people not going [out to eat as often] and not having the disposable income. That is going to pull off the demand for seafood - period," said Vitrone.
"Pricing for swordfish is volatile, because people are dining out less," said Fram. "At the same time, retail is up a bit, because people are cooking at home more."
Demand for swordfish should remain strong now that the U.S. summer grilling season has kicks in, since it is a "very good steak-like fish, that doesn't dry out," said Fram. The next busy season for the Hawaiian swordfish fishery will be before the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
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