By: Les Hodges, Keyport LLC
As we enter 2017 we can look back at a remarkable and eventful year. Keyport is grateful to our customers, suppliers, and associates for making 2016 a successful year working through the many challenges faced by our industry.
The strong and growing export markets in 2016 for live King crab, Snow crab, Dungeness crab, and Lobster along with the reduced Alaska crab quotas was the biggest news during the year. This fact and strong consumer demand offset higher imports and drove markets to new levels.
Moving into 2017 marketer’s inventories seem overall to be in good shape with some shortages in specific sizes. Although we should see adjustments up and down based upon holders inventory, demand, and new season deliveries, higher crab prices than in the past few years are the “new norm”.
Alaska Crab Fishing:
Bering Sea Red king crab is finished for 2016 and vessels next event is the 2016/2017 Opilio snow crab season on which the quota was cut 50% to 21.570mm lbs.
After two good years, the Bering Sea Bairdi fishery is closed for 2017. There is a limited fishery scheduled to open in Mid February in South East Alaska.
The Southeastern Dungeness crab fishery is also completed with good quality and large size. Inventories are limited but well worth searching for this year.
Canada Crab Fishing:
John Sackton of Seafood.com wrote an article in early December that could be significant. Based on Canadian preliminary 2017 survey data he found that there is a good possibility of Canadian snow crab harvest especially in the Gulf will be up substantially vs. 2016 and help make up for the shortfall in Alaska snow crab.
Prices moved from a beginning $5.15 on early Opilio sales to Japan to quotes on 5-8’s @ $8.00/lb. – a 38% increase.
Norway Crab Fishing:
Norwegian 2016 seafood exports rose by 23% vs. 2015 led by salmon and trout with prices up 40% compared to last year. The most current U.S. import report shows an increase of 108.6% in snow crab to 4.038mm lbs. Sales to Japan were even higher being up 141% to 1,851 m/t. Japan was the largest customer for processed king crab, Korea for live Red king crab, and the U.S. for processed Opilio snow crab.
Russian Crab Fishing:
The 2017 crab quotas have been released and are up from 72.505 m/t to 80.496 m/t. The Red king crab quota is up 25%, Blue king crab up 4%, and Brown king crab down -1%. The Opilio quota is up 16% in the Far East and the Barents Sea quota has not been released but is expected to have a significant increase. Bairdi snow crab quota in the Far East is increased by 15% to 5,191 m/t.
The 2017 fishery has begun and as of January 9 we find 19 vessels fishing in the Far East. The initial effort is on Blue king crab with 6 vessels, brown with 4. Snow crab is led by Deep-water crab with 7 vessels, Bairdi with 2, and two additional vessels fishing for live Opilio. On trampers heading for China and Korea there are 156 m/t of live Red crab, 94 m/t of Blue king crab and 51.6 m/t of Opilio. The infrastructure for delivery of live king and snow crab from the Far East continues to improve. On processed crab, we are beginning to see offers on new production.
Russian producers from the fall Red king crab season continued to focus on China with depending on the time 20-50% of the fleet fishing live Red king crab and snow crab. Deliveries of crab have begun by truck in addition to vessel to Northern China.
China has cut the terrify rates on a range of imported seafood effective January 1,2017. Processed king crab will drop from 10 to 5%, and live king crab from 14%-7%. Live lobsters also drop from 14% to 10%. E-commerce is becoming a popular method for sales of expensive seafood.
The end of the year business was successful in most areas of Japan even with prices that were up substantially from prior year. Overall remaining crab inventory is low. The ¥ is weaker than 2016 @112¥/$ as of 1/12/17, but still due to no inventory Japanese buyers are ready to purchase new season crab as they need product to sell. Opilio prices are crazy and there is strong interest in Bairdi.
Processed King crab and Snow crab imports YTD through November compared to 2015 are up 12% and 3% respectively to 4,270 m/t on king and 24,493 m/t on snow crab. Russia is the largest exporter to Japan representing 73% of the king crab and 49% of Snow crab.
Japan imports of live crab remain small with less than 1,000 m/t of King crab and Snow crab being delivered through November.
Total imports of all crab to Korea through November were basically the same as 2015 at 18,936.2 m/t. This compares to 18,838 m/t in 2015. Of this 64 % were live King and Snow crab deliveries.
Norway exports of live king crab to Korea were up at 750 m/t vs. 360 m/t in 2015. The major ports of delivery were Donghe and Sokcho.
The holiday season is over with good success for crab at retail and food service. King crab surged to over 20 major features even exceeding cheaper snow crab during the last three weeks of 2016. Sales of both products were good and there was inventory to back it up. Some sizes became tight over the holiday season but accounts seemed to adjust. Even Dungeness crab had a good run over the holiday with 5-9 features depending on the week.
Seafood features continue to dominate the protein complex for the week of January 6, claiming nearly 28% of ad volume with Beef at 26%, Pork at 23% and Chicken at 15%. (Source Urner Barry)
U.S. – King Crab:
U.S. imports of king crab from Russia through November are up 43% at 25.516mm lbs. vs. 17.847 mm for the same period in 2015. In November Russian king crab deliveries fell back from prior month but were still up 4%vs. prior year to 1.519mm lbs. Total king crab category including Argentine Santolla is up 26.3% through November at 28.642mm lbs. Argentina Southern Red crab is the only large loser in this category as is down 56.1% vs. prior year to date at 2.031mm lbs. It is projected that this decline will continue in 2017.
The duel price level on Red king crab is again present with Alaska king crab having a significant premium over Russian king crab and major retailers promoting the offering of Alaska product.
U.S. – Snow Crab:
Total U.S. snow crab imports in 2016 are slightly up through November compared to 2015 by -3.8% to 107.545mm lbs.
U.S. Imports for November 2016 were 2.250mmmm lbs. down -1.4% vs. the same period in 2015. Russian exports were 1.603mm lbs. followed by Norway at 221k lbs. and Canada at 191k.
The Alaska Bairdi season is closed for 2016/17. The only viable choice for Bairdi buyers is a limited supply of Russian product.
Keyport ha a good selection of Russian Bairdi sections in inventory ranging from 5-8oz to 12 oz. up and special pricing.
Russian Deep-water Japonicus and Angulatus snow crab inventories in the US are lower than last year at this time and prices have been high for this traditionally cheap crab.
U.S. – Santolla Southern Red crab:
The imports of this Argentine production were only 26k in November and 2.031mm lbs. year to date. This is a -56% decline from 2015 and a lowering of quota combined with increase Chinese interest in live crab would make one believe that this fishery will be less of a factor with higher costs in 2017.
U.S. – Dungeness crab:
New season opened on Dungeness crab with unsettled conditions. Only specific areas where domoic acid levels were low opened and still out of concern China closed their market. With the opening of product from all areas in FAO61, a major packer posted a price decrease of .25/lb. precipitating a West Coast strike. This is now settled with a $2.875/lb. price and fishing is underway with the last areas scheduled to open on 1/16/17.
It was expected that the China live market would again dominate the fishery and keep prices up. The recent closure of the China market for California Dungeness appears to be solved and product is now moving. Demand for live seafood such as Dungeness crab plus live lobster along with Russian King crab and Snow crab is huge for the Chinese New Year that starts January 28.
There remain some Dungeness sections from the concluded summer season in Southeastern Alaska in addition to product from California. The Alaska sections are big, clean, and full averaging 8oz.
Welcome to 2017! It should be an interesting year and the Keyport team is here to help supply your crab and other needs.
Keyport LLC is an industry-leading, global seafood producer best-known for its top-rated crab production and distribution. King crab, Snow crab and Dungeness crab.
Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, Keyport is trusted worldwide to deliver sustainably sourced seafood, using the best fisheries management practices.