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'Great snow crab price collapse’ of 2022 may be over; slight turnaround registered in U.S. market

Two of North America’s leading seafood news outlets — Undercurrent and Urner Barry — have reported signs that the price of snow crab from this province in the U.S. market is inching up after an eight-month free fall. Late last week Urner Barry reported an average price of $7.15/lb-$7.40/lb U.S. for 5-8 ounce frozen snow crab clusters from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Southside of St. John's harbour in May at the start of snow crab season.

That’s less than 1% better than August, but the first time that Urner Barry has reported a price improvement since January when market prices hit $16.80/lb-$17.15/lb U.S.

The unprecedented situation developed from companies paying premium prices for snow crab last year, excess inventory, and a drop in U.S. consumer demand tied to the state of the economy/worldwide inflation.

Undercurrent news also reported that stubborn U.S. consumers have started to buy, but it is too soon yet to say whether there’s a pattern.

Meantime, The Telegram quotes DFO figures that show the landed value of the province’s snow crab fishery this year reached $759 million from a quota of just over 50,000 tonnes — for an average price to the inshore fleet of $6.87/lb.

That compares to a landed value of $623 million last year based on a a 39,000-tonne catch — and an average price to the inshore fleet of $7.36/lb.

Reporter Barbara Dean Simmons also noted that snow crab processors/buyers still hold a lot of inventory.

The province exported more than 13,000 tonnes of snow crab between January and June this year, compared to 21,700 tonnes over the same time period in 2021.

As Simmons pointed out, factor in this year’s 32% quota increase that saw more crab landed, and “it’s apparent there’s a lot of crab to be sold.”

It remains to be seen whether snow crab processors/buyers from this province will register a profit this year, but Derek Butler of the Association of Seafood Producers has already warned this season’s prices will have a negative impact on prices next year.

But then it is Butler’s job to play poor mouth with the inshore fleet.

In a virtual presentation earlier today to David Conway, who’s leading an ongoing review of the province’s collective bargaining model for setting fish prices, SEA-NL recommended government open the doors to buyers from outside the province to operate on an even playing field with local buyers/processors.

SEA-NL also recommended the province implement an electronic auction system pilot project in time for the 2023 fishing season.

Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization serving as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. You can read more about SEA-NL, and join us here.

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