Blue crab imports continue to decline
By April Forristall, SeafoodSource assistant editor
19 June, 2009 -
After weathering one of its most volatile seasons ever last year, the blue crab market is slowly recovering.
In the first three quarters of 2008, prices soared for all grades of the crustacean, reaching USD 23 (EUR 16.53) per pound for jumbo lump and USD 9 (USD 6.47) for claw meat before settling at USD 14 (EUR 10) and USD 6 (EUR 4.31), respectively.
Volatility in last year’s blue-swimming crab (Portunus pelagicus) market was largely linked to poor harvests in Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand and India. Imports continue to be down from those areas due to the fact that in the early part of 2009 most importers were still heavy on inventories they were carrying from last year at higher costs. Most have shied away from bringing in more containers until they are able to stabilize those inventories, sources say.
Compared to last year, through April, imports from those five countries dropped to 1.2 million pounds from 2.7 million pounds, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
In mid-June, prices were steady at about USD 15.75 (EUR 11.32) to USD 16.25 (EUR 11.68) per pound for jumbo lump and about USD 5.70 (EUR 4) for claw meat.
Also hindering supply are below-average sizes. One Miami-based supplier says that for jumbo lump blue-swimming crab, the normal yield is roughly between 18 to 20 percent of the pick, but for about the last 90 days the yield has dropped to 8 to 10 percent.
The supplier says jumbo lump specifically has been affected and buyers can expect diminished supplies and higher prices. He adds that imports out of Asian countries are probably off by 40 to 50 percent.
On the flip side, both production and imports from China of other blue crab species should increase.
Through April, imports from China totaled 1.6 million pounds, down only slightly from 1.8 million pounds during the same time period last year.
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