Snow crab prices inch downward
By James Wright, SeaFood Business senior editor
18 January, 2010 -
Economic factors continue to pressure frozen crab sales and keep prices in check in the U.S. market. Buyers report that Alaska's resource is in good shape and the crab is attractively priced.
"Snow crabs were going for around USD 3.75 [a pound], f.o.b. Seattle, for truckloads," said one West Coast broker. "It's down a bit from last year, but given the economy it's really not horrible." Processors agreed to pay fishermen USD 1.10 a pound, down from the advance price of USD 1.40 last year.
Retail demand should improve, the broker says, while some foodservice buyers are shying away from higher-end products that could end up sitting in inventory.
"Last year the price point was a bit too high [for retailers]," added the broker. "When Canadian product comes on line, there will be significant retail penetration."
Shortly before the holidays, snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) clusters were selling for as low as USD 4.99 a pound in the Seattle area, a price that would be attractive to shoppers across several demographics.
Imported supplies could be problematic. One industry insider predicts the Canadian and Russian snow crab harvests will be down this year. Domestic demand for snow crab has been casual, but U.S. imports through November were up an impressive 22 percent, compared to the same period in 2008, to 116.7 million pounds, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
In mid-January, Canadian snow crab clusters were priced in the high-USD 2 range for 4 ounces and up; in the mid-USD 3 range for 5-8s; in the high-USD 3 range for 8 ounces and up; and in the low-USD 4 range for 10 ounces and up. For the smaller sizes, prices represent a decrease of nearly USD 1 a pound from a year prior.
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