By: Les Hodges
The 2015 Bering Sea Red King crab quota was announced today and did not have a major decrease as expected! The quota is 9,974000 lbs. vs. 9,986,000 in 2014 only a 12k decrease. Fishing begins on October 15,2015.
The 2015 St. Mathew Blue King crab quota was also announced with a 411,000 lb. quota vs. 665,000 in 2014 – a 38% reduction.
The Russian Far East and Barents Sea King crab fisheries are underway with the Far East now shifting to more cooked and fresh frozen King crab vs. live with the recent slowdown in the China market for live King crab. Where 8 of 10 processors in early September were fishing for live King crab, it is now reversed with 14 fishing processed and only 3 fishing for live King crab. Still, the U.S. importers have to compete with many areas of Asia who have developed a taste for crab both live and processed. Even though the Russian crab quota is similar to last year, the impact of growth these additional markets is driving up cost.
Fall and the holidays are a great time for harvest, sales and maximum consumption of crab in both the U.S. and elsewhere.
This month’s newsletter is divided into two sections: one, a section on regional “Crab Fishing” which details the latest harvest data; and two, a section on regional “Market Updates” which discusses imports, marketing trends and more.
> REGIONAL CRAB FISHING UPDATE >
The Norway King crab season began on September 5 with a quota of 1,300 m/t, which is 200 m/t larger than 2014 .The expected catch including the free catch areas would be about 2,000 m/t. In August 86 m/t shipped live to Korea with a value of $35.08/kg.
There are 30 vessels fishing in the Russian Far East as of September 27. There is a significant change in fishing style as much of the fleet has moved to processed crab rather than live. 7 processors are fishing Red King crab of which 14 are fishing processed and 3 fishing live king crab. Of this 5 are fishing Fresh frozen for Asia and 12 are fishing cooked. One vessel is fishing brown king crab.
The focus of the Russian fleet fishing Opilio is on live deliveries with 5 of the 6 vessels fishing live product. This mainly for Korea, which is short on Opilio. The remaining 4 snow crab producers are fishing for cooked deep-water snow crab.
Not all processors are set up to catch and deliver all live, so there should be some processed Red King crab of a size that could help replenish the mid size Red king crab in the U.S.
In the Barents Sea fishery, there are 35 vessels in some stage of fishing and processing with most on Opilio. Of this 11 are Russian flag vessels fishing in the Russian Zone for Red King crab and Opilio and 24 processors fishing Opilio in the international waters.
The Alaska Aleutian Islands Golden King crab Fishery is underway with product hitting Seattle now. Sizes run from 12-14 count to 20-24 count. Quality is excellent.
The Alaska Bering Sea Red King crab fishery will open October 15. Earlier rumors had a 10%+ reduction, but reality is that the quota is 9.974mm, which is only 12k lower than 2014 as follows:
> IQF – 8,976,600
> CDQ – 997,400
The Alaska St. Matthews Blue King crab fishery quota was also announced although there is a major reduction of 38% from 665,000 lbs. in 2014 to 411,000 lbs. in 2015.
Opilio and Bairdi snow crab quotas for 2015/6 are expected soon.
> REGIONAL MARKET UPDATES >
The China market has slowed over the past month on live King crab and prices are down. Due to the changes in the economy, the purchase of most premium seafood including crab is avoided and sources indicate that many customers have moved from eating King and Snow crab to local swimming crab.
Japan imports in 2015 of all crab including meat are down -23% through August at 27,500 m/t vs. 35,854/t in 2014. It is reported that dealers in the Tokyo Tsukiji market will push lower cost crab vs. the more expensive King crab for the holiday season.
The largest import in 2015 continues to be snow crab. Processed Opilio imports in August were -7% vs. prior year at 4,047-m/t and 15,806m/t (34.845mm lbs.) year to date vs. 16,999m/t (37.4786mm lbs.) in 2014. Most product was Russian or Canadian. Prices were up 7% compared to prior month. Live Snow crab is down -80% for the month and year to date.
Processed king crab imports were up in August vs. prior year to 160 m/t split evenly between Norway and Russia sourcing. Total imports year to date through August are 1,246m/t (2.747mm lbs.) vs. 2,699 m/t (5.950mm lbs.) in 2014. Live King crab imports from Russia were nil in August and are now -84% vs. 2014 YTD.
Korean Customs data for August reports imports of 439 m/t of live Snow crab and 130 m/t of live king crab. Year to date through August Korea imported 4,374 m/t (9.642mm lbs.) of live Snow crab and 2,378 m/t (5.243mm lbs.) of live King crab. This is indeed the hub of the live crab business. Live king crab dropped below $20.00/kg this past month before rebounding to an average of $21.50/kg in August. Snow crab is short with prices close to King crab at an average of $16.99/kg and the market is looking at this time. It is reported that some live Snow crab has sold for more than live King crab.
Total imports of crab to Korea are 14,577 m/t (32.136mm lbs.) through August.
Live crab sales to Korea are huge and a direct reflection of the culture. Customers want to trust their eyes to the freshness of live crab and fish from the fish tank at the restaurant. This is the same as China.
U.S. (including Alaska):
Larger 9-12 and 6-9 Red King crab prices have held fairly steady and is a great value. It should be noted that demand for this large Red King crab sizes has picked up.
Red and Brown King crab price increases slowed in September up 2% vs. prior month on most sizes according to Urner Barry reports. This reflects the increase in August imports from Russia.
U.S. imports of Russian King crab in August were up 32.1% at 2.546mm lbs. vs. 1.927mmlbs. in 2014. Year to date imports are still -12.6% at 13.464mm lbs. vs. 15.397mm lbs. in 2014. Some smaller sizes that were unavailable are getting back in supply.
Santolla southern Red King crab imports for July were 201k vs. 318k in 2014.
Including Santolla the total imports of items categorized as King crab by NOAA YTD August are 18.251mm lbs. vs. 19.409mm lbs. in 2014 or down only -6 through the same time period in 2014.
U.S – Retail:
Salmon and shrimp continue to lead retail seafood ads for September with an average of 61 salmon ads and 118 shrimp ads every week!
U.S. retail support for crab was steady in September with an average among major retailers of 30 per/week. As in the prior month, 69% of the ads were on Snow crab.
U.S. – Snow Crab:
Imports of snow crab continue at levels above 2014. In August total U.S. imports were up 5.9% at 8.618mm lbs. vs. 8.139mm lbs. in 2014. Total imports through August are 94.309mm lbs. vs. 90.508mm lbs. in 2014 up 4.2%.
Although good inventories of smaller size 5-8 Opilio, Canadian marketers are firming up a little on 5-8’s in anticipation of a lower Alaska 2015 quota. 5-8’s are now in the $4.75-$4.85 range as compared to Alaskan in the $5.00-$5.15 range. Larger sizes are in tight supply with pricing on Canadian in the $6.00-$6.15 . Russian product lags a bit with prices 5 to 10 cents lower than Canadian. Most large size crab is from Russian or Norwegian source.
Canadian Opilio represents 87% of total imports but there is a significant growth of Russian Barents Sea imports and product from other flag vessels fishing in this important source are up 63.8% and 127.6%. While Russia imports are not broken down by fishing area it is clear that most of the Russian Opilio is from the Barents sea or Deep-water Snow crab.
Alaska Bairdi Snow crab is gone, but there is limited amount of good quality U 12oz Russian Bairdi Snow crab inventory can be found in the same price range as 10up and 12 up Opilio. This is a great buy in the low $6.00 -$6.25range
Russian Deep-water Japonicus and Angulatus Snow crab inventories in the US are lower than last year at this time and sellers trying for higher prices. New suppliers of this item are emerging from the Far East. Still, as deep-water Snow crab prices get closer to Opilio, the value is reduced.
U.S. – Santolla (Southern Red crab):
Argentine Southern Red crab that is reported under the King crab category was up 147.2% in August and category year to date up 17.9% at 4.617 mm lbs. This item represents 25% of the King crab category.
New season for Santolla is underway with deliveries around the end of the year. One large producer is moving from bulk product to a finished1/10lb leg and claw pack. Importers have raised prices on new production as they try to fill the gap on a shortage of 20up king crab.
U.S. – Dungeness crab:
As we wait for new season Dungeness from the coast, there remains a limited amount of Sections and Whole Cooks. Sections are quoted in the $9.15 – $9.40 range.