Pacific squid: Trade hurdles to China remain, but prices are steady
The California squid fleet is facing stiff tariffs, COVID-crimped markets and a slow start to the season, but oceanic conditions appear to have improved for the 2020 season.
“It’s been going O.K.,” California Wetfish Producers Association Executive Director Diane Pleschner-Steele said in Buellton. “I don’t think they’re setting the world on fire, but they’re catching.”
According to PacFIN, the 2020 harvest of squid for California, Oregon, and Washington stood at around 42,000 short tons as of early July. Based on data from previous years, Pleschner-Steele added that this year’s preliminary catch of 10,107 short tons for California (according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife as of 26 June) and other oceanographic data suggests that the fishing grounds indeed felt the effects of El Niño conditions in 2018 and 2019.
With the pendulum swinging toward the middle in terms of long-term average ocean water temperatures and rainfall patterns, squid production promises to rise, according to Pleschner-Steele.
“Conditions are turning in our favor,” she said.
Meanwhile, trade agreements with China – where about 80 percent of West Coast squid wind up – remain less than favorable. Two years ago, squid exported to China carried a 27 percent tariff, and last year the United States imposed an additional 25 percent for a total of 52 percent (value-added charges and duty combined), adding tremendous cost to importers wanting to bring product into China.
In 2019, U.S. exports of squid in various product forms to China added up to 10.27 million kilos for a value of USD 21.98 million (EUR 18.64 million).
Though the majority of West Coast squid are consumed in China, much of the remaining volume undergoes reprocessing and exportation from China to Europe in product forms that wind up in retail markets. Those markets have gone stagnant since the onset of the COVID-19 virus.
Despite the trade difficulties, the West Coast squid fleet is seeing higher ex-vessel prices for the 2020 season remain steady at just under USD 1,000 (EUR 848) per short ton.
Photo courtesy of NOAA