Economic woes suppress spiny lobster demand
By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
31 August, 2009 -
The outlook for Florida’s spiny lobster season, which opened 6 August, is bleak, but not because of lack of supply. Demand for the product is lagging significantly, which is depressing prices.
“We’re all dealing with a recession, and market demand is nowhere near where it should be. People are afraid and are not buying,” said one Florida dealer.
Both domestic and international buyers are waiting to put in large orders — possibly until the Thanksgiving and December holiday season. “I think it is early, but nobody is really coming out wanting to buy,” said the dealer.
There are some signs that demand will pick up closer to the holiday season, however, he noted. “If the stock market goes up a bit and everything stabilizes around the world, people will be ordering for the holidays,” he said.
In addition, some restaurant and supermarket chains are taking advantage of the lower prices and are buying larger quantities than in previous years.
In Florida, prices are incredibly low so far this season. “They [fishing boats] had been getting USD 7 (EUR 4.90) a pound a couple of years ago; now they are getting just USD 3 (EUR 2.10) a pound,” said one industry representative.
Retail prices are averaging between USD 6 and 7 (EUR 4.20 to 4.90) a pound, which is down about 35 percent from last year. Prices are so depressed that some lobster boats are tying up their boats and not fishing until the prices improve.
“Others haven’t been fishing since May or so, so it is kind of hard to stay at the dock,” said the industry representative.
The price has been falling over the last couple of years, though. The Florida Fish and Wildlife and Conservation Commission (FFWCC) found that the average price per pound at the dock for Florida spiny lobster in 2008 was USD 6.46 (EUR 4.52) in 2008. In 2007, it was USD 7.18 (EUR 5.03).
Total 2008 spiny lobster landings reached 3.46 million pounds, while the 2007 catch totaled 3.76 million pounds, according to the FFWCC.
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