Farmed salmon remains a tough market

Published on
April 8, 2013

In the wake of the Easter holiday, prices are predictably leveling off, but the farmed salmon market remains volatile because of supply problems from both Chile and Europe. At the same time, there is a backup on the fish over the past two weeks, due to higher prices and somewhat lower demand around the Easter holiday.

“Instead of double-digit [price] increases, stability has taken over, which can be attributed to less than projected Easter demand and the fact that salmon consumption in general will dip in April,” Harry Mahleres, director of purchasing for Seattle Fish Co., Denver, told SeafoodSource.

“After Easter, we didn’t sell as much as we thought we were going to sell,” Tony Lombardi, owner of wholesaler and retailer Lombardi’s Seafood in Winter Park, Fla., told SeafoodSource. Still, he noted that prices have been rising 15 to 20 cents a pound every week for the past few weeks.

Distributors and suppliers are reporting average wholesale prices of USD 5.00 to USD 5.10 a pound for 2-3s, and USD 5.20 to 5.30 a pound for 3-4s this week. While prices are still higher than earlier this year, they have temporarily dropped as some supermarket chains have backed off ordering and promoting the product over the last week or so. “There was a panic mentality through Lent, and then retailers realized that they didn’t need that much fish,” said a salmon importer that did not want to be named.

This spring’s farmed salmon price hikes can be attributed to a number of different issues. Distributors tell SeafoodSource that Chilean production has dropped because of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) issues over the past couple of years, plus smaller fish sizes this spring. “The slower growth could be caused by higher water temperatures or sea lice, depending on the farm,” the salmon importer said.

In addition, Chilean government regulations require producers to leave pens fallow for three to four months at a time, which has hampered supply. At the same time, Amoebic Gill Disease and other issues have hampered salmon supply from Scotland, distributors say. In addition, the Scottish Salmon Co. reported a drop in earnings in the fourth quarter of 2012 due to “a biological issue caused by sub-standard feed that impacted growth,” according to a statement from the company.

Meanwhile, demand for Chilean salmon has picked up in Asia and Europe, distributors say. “Chile has expanded markets for the fish in Asia — Japan in particular — and in Europe, where they are paying higher prices. Right now, North America is being somewhat shorted, price-wise,” the importer said.

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