Weak demand for snow crab in the US market has significantly reduced the price offered to fishermen for this resource, which creates uncertainty for processors in New Brunswick.
When the crab fishery began in mid-April, all indications were that the industry would have a very good season.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States banned seafood imports from Russia. Last year, Alaska also reduced its quota for snow crabs by 88%. Thus, the Canadian crab was the only one who could meet America’s high demand for this crustacean.
Thus, the prices offered to fishermen at the beginning of the season – about $ 8.50 per pound – were set on the basis of this deficit and high demand for snow crab during the pandemic.
According to the New Brunswick Crab Processors Association (NBCTA), Americans do not seem to have an appetite for crabs.
“It’s been an extremely difficult year for the snow crab industry,” said Gilles Terio, president of CNBTA.
According to Mr Therio, the difficulty lies in the fact that crab processors cannot sell their stocks south of the border.
“Unlike in previous years, when crab was sold as it was processed, this year the market is buying it very slowly,” he said. They buy in small quantities here and there, but this is worrying, as many factories remain with stocks and the price at which they can be sold has dropped significantly compared to last year.
Weak demand for snow crab in the United States can be partly explained by the fact that American buyers bought crab in Russia before the conflict in Ukraine.
“The price for fishermen was high at the beginning of the season, because we expected high demand. We buy, but store the crab in warehouses, because the American market is not ready. This puts a lot of pressure on the processors, ”says Mr. Terio.
Until demand grows, processors have agreed to give combine harvesters $ 6 a pound. The amount will then be adjusted when the business resumes.
Whales are worried
The Academic Regional Federation of Professional Fishermen (FRAPP) says it is not too concerned about the situation.
“The product is coming in slower than in previous years,” says Jean Lanten. The bulk of the snow crab Americans eat during the holiday season. There are not many fears at the moment that our catch will not be sold.
FRAPP says it is particularly interesting whether its members will be able to catch the entire quota of 32,519 tons allowed this year in the Gulf, especially given the growing whale presence in the region. Fisheries costs are also a concern.
“The cost of fuel and bait has doubled since last year, which worries our guys. They began in April, but as fuel prices have risen by $ 0.30 over the past 14 days, the impact is growing. We still have time for fishing, let’s see how it goes, “says Mr. Lanten.
“It’s not easy for anyone, it’s one of the hardest years we’ve known for a while, some say it’s the hardest in 25 years,” said M. Terio.