Understand the evolution of the crab price in 4 charts

1. Land prices

Over the past decade, the price paid to fishermen for crabs when they land their catch has nearly tripled. The sharpest increase was recorded in 2021, when the price doubled after a significant drop in 2020 due to the pandemic and market uncertainty.

The sharpest increase was recorded in 2021, when the price doubled after a significant drop in 2020 due to the pandemic and market uncertainty.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Marc-Antoine Mageau

The price of crab depends on supply and demand. As supplies tend to dwindle and demand increases, the resource becomes increasingly valuable.

In 2022, we have indications that relatively high prices will continue. I don’t think we will go back to 2020 or 2019 prices– explains Ali Magassouba, an economist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

2. Fall in the number of crabs on the world market

Even though fishing quotas are increasing in some areas, the number of snow crab catches worldwide has been declining overall for more than 10 years.

In Canada alone, over the past eight years, catch volumes have fallen by more than 20%.

The trend for the resource, if we look at the long-term trend, it is not increasing. Whether in the United States or Canada, the crab is a cold-water species and the water tends to warm. […] There are some areas where catches are trending up, such as in Russia, but not enough to offset declines in Alaska and Canadaexplains Mr. Magassouba.

2012: 206,883 tons 2019: 149,742 tons

Since 2012, the world crab catch has fallen by almost 30%.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Marc-Antoine Mageau

3. Falling shares in Quebec

In 2021, 11,199 tonnes of snow crab were caught in Quebec. This means a decrease of 30% compared to the number caught 8 years ago.

Obviously, the resource is cyclical and the number of adult crabs that can be caught can go down… and up. Currently, some areas are in a depression, as in the case of the St. Lawrence estuary. In other sectors, such as zone 12, quotas are increasing, but not enough to collapse prices on the world market.

The amount of snow crab is limited. You cannot adapt to demand by increasing production. The number is limited by what is on the seabed, and for ten or fifteen years the trend for the snow crab has been quite downward.– explains Ali Magasuba.

2017: 19,502 tonnes unloaded in Quebec 2021: 11,199 tonnes

2017 was an exceptional year for Quebec crab, but landings have declined since then.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Marc-Antoine Mageau

4. Inflation and labor shortage

As consumer prices continue to rise, especially for fuel, the country’s labor shortage is worsening. The combination of these two factors leads to increased costs for processors and fishmongers, who then pass part of the bill on to consumers.

You must remove the casing [du crabe]you have to cook it, transport it, pay the people who will transform it, improve it. […] It should also not be forgotten that wages tend to rise due to labor shortages, fuel prices have also increased, so all of this is ultimately reflected in final costs– says Mr. Magasuba.

Live crab sold for $5.95/lb in 2016, and now sells for $14.95/lb.

These prices have been observed by our journalists in Bas-Saint-Laurent fish shops for many years. These may vary from region to region and from fishmonger to fishmonger.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Simon Rail-Laplante

5. Sanctions against Russia

In addition, it is the United States that buys most of the crab that is produced on the world market. More than 95% of the snow crab caught in Quebec is exported to that country. Russia also exports to the United States, but due to the war in Ukraine and related economic sanctions, Russian crab will have to be sold elsewhere, making Canadian crab even more popular this year.

Russia produces crab, and the United States tends to buy quite a lot. But I think that Russia will be able to redirect its production to another part of AsiaMr. Magasuba believes.

In short, the price of crab this year is due to several factors. However, the market is not immune to fluctuations in supply and demand and may experience less favorable years, especially if crustaceans become less popular in the United States.

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