Abundant stone crab pushes US prices down
It’s a “banner year” for stone crabs in Florida, providing a better value for foodservice and retail buyers.
“I have never seen them catching stone crabs like they’re caching now, and I was crabbing 20 years ago,” said Gib Migliano, owner of wholesaler Save on Seafood in St. Petersburg, Fla. “It’s a banner year and prices have come down substantially since last year.”
While the stone crab fishery had low landings for the last two years, this season is different. “This year, landings have been very, very good,” said Gary Graves, vice president of Keys Fisheries in Marathon, Fla.
Last season, around 2.22 million pounds of stone crab were harvested, versus 1.99 million pounds in the 2013-14 season. Still, last season’s harvest was notably lower than the average season of 3 million pounds. The lack of supply pushed last season’s stone crab value to USD 31 million (EUR 28.9 million) in Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
As a result of plentiful supply this season – likely due to warmer weather – wholesale prices range from USD 3 (EUR 2.80) to USD 7 (EUR 6.52) per pound lower than last season, wholesalers say.
Sources tell SeafoodSource that the average price to fishermen is USD 8 (EUR 7.46) per pound for medium claws, USD 12 (EUR 11.18) per pound for large claws and USD 15 (EUR 13.98) pound for jumbos. Wholesale prices average USD 10 (EUR 9.32) to USD 10.50 (EUR 9.78) a pound for medium, USD 14 (EUR 13.05) to USD 16 (EUR 14.91) per pound for large and USD 17 (EUR 15.84) per pound for jumbo claws.
Thanks to lower prices, some retailers and restaurants are passing on the savings to customers. “Whole Foods Market has some wonderful prices on stone crab,” Migliano said. A Whole Foods’ store in Coral Springs, Fla., for example, featured medium claws for USD 17.99 (EUR 16.76) a pound and large for USD 19.99 (EUR 18.63) a pound during the weekend of 14 November. Many fish markets also have better prices on stone crab than last season, but some retailers and restaurants are not lowering prices.
“Some restaurants never change their price [on stone crab],” Migliano said. “Most have preprinted menus and are looking for a price at the beginning of the season.”
Graves said it is a great time for restaurants to take advantage of the plentiful harvest. “With the price being down, it will be more attractive for a restaurant to have stone crab. The ordinary restaurant will put crab on special on Friday or Saturday.”
In good news for buyers, stone crab prices could slide again before the high demand Christmas season, according to Migliano, because of overproduction.