By: Les Hodges
U.S King crab prices remained stable in June with large size Red King crab having only small or no increases vs. the same period in 2015 while medium and small Red King crab crab have increased 25-30%. The compression of prices has increased the value of large King crab.
Snow crab fishing is about over in Canada with only about 15% remaining and fishing slow.
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 MARKET UPDATES” which discusses imports, marketing trends and more.
REGIONAL CRAB FISHING >
Alaska Crab Fishing:
The Bering Sea crab fisheries for 2015/2016 are finished. Southeastern Dungeness crab fishing has been very slow to date with effort projected to increase later this month.
Canada Crab Fishing:
The Japan buyers have about finished for 2016 with about 15% left to come out of the water. This may not be reached, however, due to slow fishing.
With Japan buyers gone, the processors are completing the production primarily to U.S. specifications. Producers have been allocating product to traders while filling contracts to major U.S. buyers.
Norway Crab Fishing:
Live Red King crab shipments to Korea in May were 26 m/t. Year-to-date exports of live King crab to Korea are 327 m/t vs. 95m/t in 2015. The change in seasons is a major reason for this result. The King crab season is over until Fall and Keyport has inventory to maintain continuity until the new fishery.
Processed Snow crab exports to Japan were also up through at 364 m/t vs. 72 m/t in 2015.
Russian Crab Fishing
There are 44 Russian vessels fishing crab in the Far East as of July 3.
13 vessels were fishing Opilio in the Far East with 3 fishing for the live market. Blue King crab has 10 vessels fishing with 2 for the live market. 3 vessels were fishing Brown King crab processing boiled for the U.S or meat market. 9 vessels are fishing deep-water snow crab.
Blue crab fishing should decline, as it appears that some crabs are now pre-molt and vessels are pulling off the grounds. As of July 3, vessels had over 300 MT (660k) of processed Blue King crab on board.
On the week of June 25th, 3 vessels delivered 133 m/t of live Blue King crab with 2 deliveries to Korea and 1 to China. Opilio live deliveries amounted to 65 m/t from 2 vessels.
13 processors were reported working in the open area of the Barents Sea for Opilio with over 330 m/t (727k) on board.
REGIONAL MARKET UPDATES >
Discretionary spending is buying things you like but don’t need (see below Chinese crab vending machine!)
The Chinese consumer has diversified their spending from necessities to products they enjoy and want. McKinsey and Company projected that a growth of 6-7% annually is expected in a category they call “semi-necessities”.
The ¥ continues strong in 2016 and now sits at 101.4 ¥/USD as of 6/30/16. This represents a 16% increase in value since 1/1/16!
Japan crab imports year to date through May including meat are up 14% to 11.5m/t. Processed King crab and Snow crab imports YTD through May were up 89% and 29% respectively to 1,788 m/t on King and 6,792m/t on Snow crab. This does not reflect the Canadian Snow crab purchases as most went to China for meat production.
Prices on Opilio range from $14.00-$16.50/kg X warehouse Busan depending on pack and quality. Many Japan traders have given up at these prices.
The Japan/Russia treaty on IUU fishing has worked and the live King and Snow crab market is a non-event in Japan. Only 55m/t of live King crab and 55 m/t of live Snow crab have been imported by Japan through May. There is 40 m/t of legal Russian Opilio currently being shipped to Mombetsu
Total imports of all crab to Korea are similar to the same period in 2015.
Through May 2016 we find 10,103.1 m/t of crab were imported vs. 10,366.4 in 2015. King crab represented 1506 m/t of the live deliveries and 2,028 of live Opilio.
Both live King crab and Snow crab prices in Korea continued to adjust at lower numbers. Snow crab imports for May were 500m/t. and prices adjusted to $12.36 on snow crab and $22.62 on 340 m/t of King crab. The largest deliveries of live crab are China swimming crab at 2,865 m/t year to date through May.
The China market for live premium seafood such as crab and lobster continues to grow and Russian producers are eager to fill this void with live King and Snow crab.
U.S. imports of King crab from Russia through May are up 105.9% at 13.950 mm lbs. vs. 6.776 mm for the same period in 2015. A large portion of this has been large Red King crab. For the month of May imports were up 9.1% vs. May 2015 to 2.470mm lbs. Total King crab category imports are up 51.5% through May at 18.687mm lbs.
U.S. and Russian King crab prices were stable in June according to Urner Barry with few changes. Holders of medium and small Red King crab continued to push for higher price but find the trade balking.
Alaska King crab is finished and in very few hands. Demand for Alaskan crab by retail is steady with a price premium on Alaskan over Russian product. Sellers are now allocating, as the inventory must last until new season.
Many trade factors are moving to the larger Red King crab. 4/7,6/9, and 9/12 count size legs and claws due to the price compression, perceived value, and presence at retail and food service.
Brown crabs are finding it difficult to find homes and product is being offered well below Urner Barry prices. Some factors are offering at more than .50 off U.B. pricing.
The Russian Red King crab supply for the U.S. going forward should continue above 2015 but still limited even with the increased quotas due to the live crab business in Asia. Only Brown King crab has no live market and most will come to the U.S. unless it’s purchased for the King crab meat market. Brown crab fishing has been good and we expect most will come to the U.S.
Snow crab led the way at retail in May at retail chains representing 65% of crab ads followed by King crab with 35%.
Snow crab imports in 2016 from all sources were up through May compared to 2015 by an amazing 116.7% or 50.194mm lbs. This compares to 23.161mm lbs. in 2015.
The largest increases were from Canada up 136.6% year to date at 41.547mm lbs. followed by Russia at 4.993mm lbs. and Norway at 2.168mm lbs.
U.S. imports from Canada for May 2016 were 31.139mm lbs. vs. 14.287mm lbs. in May 2015.
In spite of this high level of imports the market remains dry with limited open inventory. Several people we talked to felt prices would stay in the same range until Fall. The Japan buyers have gone home, but U.S. demand is still strong.
Russian Deep-water Japonicus and Angulatus Snow crab inventories in the US are lower than last year at this time as some offloads are staying in Korea.
Santolla Southern Red crab:
Argentine Southern Red crab imports to the U.S. through May are off -49.4% to 1.792mm lbs. vs. 3.542mm lbs. in 2015. May imports were only 79k vs. 502k in 2015. This item that substituted for small Brown crab in the market in the past is now becoming less and less of a factor.
The price of Dungeness sections remain in the $9.15-$9.40 range with whole cooks pricing being stable. There remains only limited supply on both clusters and whole cooks.
The Southeastern Alaska fishery is now open, but reports are of light effort as the focus is on salmon at present. We can expect effort to increase later this month.