USDA confirms major US pollock purchase

A USD 30 million (EUR 26.5 million) commitment from the United States government to buy Alaska Pollock will help mitigate the effects of the U.S.-China trade war on producers.

Due to the U.S. government shutdown, the U.S. Department of Agriculture notified the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) via phone that it will soon publish a solicitation so that Alaska pollock suppliers can bid on USD 30 million worth of deliveries to food banks across the country.

The USD 30 million solicitation is in addition to the USD 7.6 million (EUR 6.7 million) that USDA is already purchasing to support the National School Lunch Program, GAPP CEO Craig Morris said.

Morris said the purchase was a win for the U.S. pollock sector.

“We should be really proud that people who are in need are going to get a really nutritious product, and it is great for our industry, which has had challenging times,” Morris said. “There is a lot of demand for our product and this announcement … shows that we are going to have even more demand than a couple of days ago.”

Last fall Alaska legislators pushed for the USD 30 million (EUR 26.5 million) purchase to help offset losses from the U.S.- China trade war, and the news is finally official. 

"Alaska pollock is a significant and lucrative market for Alaska and the US, accounting for one-third of our country’s seafood output. Unfortunately, in light of the retaliatory tariffs imposed by China on Alaska pollock products, many of those involved in the industry have suffered,” U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said in a November statement.

The new purchase “could not have come at a better time for GAPP and the broader Alaska seafood industry, especially as we seek to build awareness and overcome competition both domestically and in foreign markets,” GAPP said in a statement.

Morris, who came on as CEO of GAPP on 14 January, oversees a much larger, better-funded organization since its reorganization last October. The reorganization includes a minimum commitment of USD 10 million (EUR 8.8 million) in new marketing initiatives, an expansion of GAPP membership to all those involved in fishing and primary processing of wild Alaska pollock, and a CEO-level board of directors.

In addition, GAPP said in October that its focus will be on growing the German, Japanese, and North American markets. Plus, secondary processors, retailers, and foodservice companies in North America will soon have access to marketing innovation funds to help convince consumers to choose wild Alaska pollock, according to GAPP.

For the past two weeks, Morris has been getting to know the various members of GAPP, to understand what they do, what the organization is doing well, and what it could do better to help them, he said.

“Near-term, what I’ve heard from all the members is that GAPP needs to put a high priority on communicating what we are doing with their investment. We clearly have more resources than we have ever had in our history … We need to used our increased investment very wisely,” Morris said.

Morris is also querying members about their customers' opinions of Alaska pollock, so the organization can work on exploiting the positive messaging and counter negative messaging. 

In addition, “a huge percentage of the population don’t know who we are, so we will be addressing that,” he said.

Morris most recently served as the vice president of international marketing for the National Pork Board (NPB), where he oversaw the organization’s largest-ever international marketing budget .

He also previously served as the deputy administrator over the Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. In addition, Morris oversaw the USDA’s Country of Origin Labeling Program, ensuring that seafood sold at retail is correctly marketed by its origin and method of production.


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