Pacific whiting demand steady, supply low
By April Forristall, SeafoodSource assistant editor
25 November, 2009 -
Last year, despite strong demand, the global economic downturn forced buyers to curb their Pacific whiting purchases, leaving suppliers with inventory surpluses.
However, this year the opposite is taking affect, because the West Coast’s 2009 whiting quota was cut nearly in half, to 184,000 metric tons. Demand is holding steady, but both U.S. and Canada supplies are low. There’s enough product in inventory to hold over buyers — for now.
However, if the quota hadn’t been cut, 2009 would have been a much more challenging year, contend suppliers.
“When the financial meltdown happened at the end of last year, there were quite a bit of containers on the water that folks couldn’t pay for. There were a lot of challenges in finding homes for those fish, and it involved lowering prices,” said one Oregon supplier.
“This year inventories are low, and we’re entering into consumption season,” he explained. “Brokers are saying they’re ready to order, but we don’t have [the product] because the U.S. production season shut down fairly early. There were only about six weeks of production before the quota was reached.”
As a result, prices have been inching up and are expected to continue to do so until availability increases. Domestic H&G whiting blocks were commanding 48 to 50 cents a pound in mid-November, while product from Argentina and Uruguay was quoted at 40 to 45 cents.
What’s more, the whiting fishery is facing additional cuts. In March, the Pacific Fishery Management Council proposed a 42 percent reduction in the 2010 quota. No decision has been made yet, but the National Marine Fisheries Service will meet in March to finalize the quota and other management measures.
According to NMFS, through August U.S. imports of frozen whiting from Canada more than tripled, to nearly 598,000 pounds, from the same period last year. Frozen whiting imports from Argentina and China are also up significantly this year.
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