USDA requests near-record Alaska pollock bids

Alaska pollock blocks.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced supply contracts for Alaska pollock worth nearly USD 3.7 million (EUR 3.4 million) on 22 May.

And Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers CEO Craig Morris told SeafoodSource the USDA plans to make a near-record purchase of more than 16 million pounds of pollock, as well as canned pink salmon, with bids due 5 June.

Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.-based Trident Seafoods won USD 2.49 million (EUR 2.3 million) of the USDA contract, while Braintree, Massachusetts, U.S.A.-based Channel Fish Processing will supply USD 1.19 million (EUR 1.1 million) worth of Alaska pollock.

The USDA paid an average of USD 2.83 (EUR 2.63) per pound, the highest price USDA has ever paid for Alaska pollock blocks, according to Morris. The agency paid between USD 3.04 to USD 3.09 (EUR 2.82 to EUR 2.87) per pound for the frozen pollock fillets and USD 2.77 to USD 3.03 (EUR 2.57 to EUR 2.82) per pound for frozen pollock sticks.

Now, the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service is asking for bids on 16.4 million pounds of frozen pollock and 465,120 cases of canned pink salmon for the government’s domestic food-distribution programs. 

“This solicitation, if awarded, would be USDAs second-largest [for Alaska pollock] in its history,” Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers CEO Craig Morris told SeafoodSource.

The USDA purchased 16.8 million pounds in September 2019, but “prices are so much higher now than they were in 2019 that this will undoubtedly be – if they award the full amount – the largest purchase ever by USDA on a dollar basis,” Morris said. “This buy would also make 2023 the second-largest purchase year since 2019.”

Nonetheless, the new pollock purchase falls far short of the amount of pollock the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) and Alaska legislators have requested the USDA purchase.

In a late March 2023 letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Alaska’s two U.S. senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Alaska’s sole U.S. representative, Mary Peltola, urged the agency to purchase more Alaska sockeye salmon and pollock.

World market and industry conditions combined with record-breaking harvests in 2021-2022 have provided the USDA an opportunity to expand their procurement of highly nutritious and sustainable Alaska sockeye salmon and Alaska pollock,” the legislators wrote. “Currently, Alaska suppliers are nearly finished with the first portion of their Alaska pollock season and need to market this massive harvest. Additionally, planning for the 2023 salmon season has begun while the record-breaking 2022 harvest is still being marketed. Millions of dollars are being spent and committed while waiting on the USDA to declare their need of Alaska seafood.”

It makes sense for the USDA to buy more Alaska seafood, they legislators argued, because

Photo courtesy of Andrey Starostin/Shutterstock

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