Blue-swimming crab market feeling the pinch

August 8, 2011 15:39
Blue-swimming crab importers are weathering a turbulent year, and the domestic blue-crab market is also experiencing some ups and downs, reports with reference to SeafoodSource.

After five years of increased supply, 2011 has seen import supplies fall about 12 percent, says Paul McCarthy, executive VP at Chicken of the Sea Frozen Foods in El Segundo, Calif. A shortage is primarily seen in Indonesia, says McCarthy, but red crab from China is also down, which plays into the current situation because it limits buyers' options.

Yet demand for imported crab has been "very strong while supply is limited," says Caroline Tippett, director of strategic development at Phillips Foods in Baltimore.

The past year in the blue-swimming crab market has been marked by rising prices as the volume out of Indonesia flagged, notes Carlos Faria, senior VP-supply chain, international and strategy for Miami's Blue Star Food Products. Supplies from Indonesia dropped to 15 metric tons a day, he notes, while the prior year's daily average was about 35 metric tons. In May, volume had started to pick up again to about 25 metric tons daily.

Weather has been a big factor, says Faria, with storms preventing crab fishermen from going out to sea, and higher temperatures forcing the crabs into deeper water. "The smaller boats don't have the range to go out to deep water to get the crabs," Faria explains.

Tippett says other countries have also struggled to increase output, "but with such an extreme reduction in output to the largest exporter during price-sourcing periods, we feel it is certain the pasteurized crabmeat market will continue to face supply constraints and pricing inflation through the remainder of 2011."

Other factors impacting the imported blue-swimming crab market include flooding in Thailand that impacted processing plants and the continuation of a weak U.S. dollar. The latter, says Faria, means "more competition for product locally in Thailand."

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