March 5, 2016
By: Les Hodges
Summary: The live crab market remains brisk in Asia with sales of both Snow crab and King crab. However, at the same time Russian processors are producing processed Brown and Blue King crab for the U.S. market. Some holders are trying to push prices up, but there is some weakening in sellers. The two-tier market covering domestic and imported King crab in the U.S. has held, as retail demand remains strong for U.S. produced King and Snow crab.
Canadian Snow crab inventories in the U.S. are very low with most remaining product moving to contracted accounts. Alaskan Opilio has been a no show in the U.S. market in spite of 68% of the quota being taken as of this date. Some users have moved to larger and higher priced Alaska Bairdi Snow crab to fill their requirements until new Canadian season starts.
This 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 “REGIONAL MARKET UPDATES” which discusses imports, marketing trends and more.
REGIONAL CRAB FISHING >
Alaska Crab Fishing:
The Bering Sea Red king crab fishery for 2015 is finished with limited finished inventories remaining in the U.S. market.
The Alaska Aleutian Islands Golden King crab Fishery continues and quality is excellent
The Alaska Bairdi Snow crab fishing continues. Quality is excellent with most clusters falling into a graded U-12oz or 10oz up. 15.019mm lbs. or 76% of quota has been taken as of 3/2/16. Although a significant amount of early and large product went to Japan, there is Bairdi in Seattle for the U.S. market.
The Alaska Opilio quota for 2015/6 was reduced -40% from last year’s 67mm lb. to 40.6 mm lbs. 24.7mm lbs. of Opilio have been taken to date or 68% of the quota as of 3/2/16.
Norway Crab Fishing:
The Norway King crab season began on January 1with catch expected around 2,500 m/t. Crab exports are up so far in 2016 by 317% according to Seafood Source. King crab export value last month was 6.8mm USD and snow crab @$2.7mm.
Russian Crab Fishing
There are 24 Russian vessels fishing crab in the Far East as of February 29 plus another 3 Russian flag vessels and others fishing in the Barents Sea for Opilio. 7 vessels are fishing Bairdi Snow crab, 3 on Blue King crab, 3 fishing Opilio, and 8 on deep-water Red crab.
The fishing effort changed mid-February as most processors who were working on Brown King crab in North Okhotsk have moved to Bairdi Snow crab due to the Sea Ice concentration (see chart BELOW).
Offer prices on replacement Russian King crab are currently higher than the U.S. market levels. This makes it very difficult for an importer to buy without speculation.
REGIONAL MARKET UPDATES >
The price of King crab and lobster declined during the 2016 Chinese New Year. King crab was selling about 25% lower than last year and lobster down 33% according to Seafood news.
The ¥ has continued to strengthen in 2016 and now sits at 113.7¥/USD as of 3/2/16.
Japan crab imports for January including meat were up 18% to 3,118 m/t. Processed King crab and Snow crab were up 174% and 42% respectively to 781 m/t on king and 958 m/t on snow crab in January. Imports of Norwegian frozen Opilio were 139 m/t vs. 17 m/t in 2015.
The halt in IUU fishing and the Japan/Russia treaty sent imports of live crab plummeting last year and continuing into 2016. Imports were 2 m/t on live King crab and 0 on Snow crab in January.
Total imports of crab to South Korea for January were 1,750 m/t (3.858mm lbs.). Live Snow crab and King crab were dominant with 228 m/t of snow crab and 465m/t of King crab.
Prices of Russian live Snow and King were up in January and similar at $28.60/kg for Snow and $28.98 for King crab. The Snow crab price equates to an amazing $12.97 lb.! Russian crab is preferred over the alternative Norwegian King crab due to price.
King Crab >
With the limited supply of Alaskan King crab remaining there is continuing price pressure and spot shortages. Alaskan Bering Sea Red King crab prices have settled at about $2.00 higher depending on size than comparable Russian red King crab.
Overall King crab prices were mainly stable in February with only minor changes on a few sizes. There is limited supply on mid size and small King crab. The best value remains to be large 9/12 count Red king crab
We believe that Russian King crab supply for the U.S. going forward will continue to be tight in spite of the larger quota for 2016. This is a direct result of Far East Russian processors delivering live King crab for a hungry Asia market vs. processing their catch. There are currently inventories of Brown and Blue King crab in Asia but a disconnect between sellers and buyers over price.
Snow Crab >
Snow crab led the way in February at retail representing 41% of snow crab ads followed by king crab with 35%. Some major retailers and food service operators have elected to promote only Alaska crab due the excellent management of the resource.
Inventories of Snow crab are so short that prices have been removed from the Urner Barry Price Current.
One importer of Canadian Snow crab advised that some processors are making a few deals to get their 2015 inventory moved before new season. There is no ice so expectations are there for early fishing with initial high prices until the channels are full after which prices should drop.
Some users have moved to higher price and larger Alaska Bairdi snow crab. The quality of the new season Bairdi snow crab is excellent although most of the inventory is comprised of under 12oz size. Russian product is also being fished, but none has arrived in the U.S. as of this date.
Russian Deep-water Japonicus and Angulatus Snow crab inventories in the US are lower than last year at this time. The Koran buffet business is consuming more of this inexpensive product and has raised the basic price level.
Santolla Southern Red crab >
Argentine Southern Red crab that is reported under the king crab category is up and new deliveries of new season Santolla is taking place. In some sectors, this product has replaced the small Russian King crab.
Dungeness crab >
The California commercial fishery remains closed due to domoic acid as of this date and is a disaster for fishermen as most of the profit from this fishery is generated November through January. Last year California fishermen caught 16.8 mm lbs. of Dungeness worth $58.3 million dollars.
California buyers are filling in with Dungeness from Canada, Washington, and Oregon, prices remain high with limited supply.