Overview of key markets for fish products from Russian and American Pacific fisheries as per first week of April 2011

April 15, 2011 16:24
Development of the situation on the US Bering Sea grounds of Alaska pollock in the first half of April 2011 showed that the Japanese users would hardly be able to rely on shipments of high quality raw material in the current year and, most evidently, that was one of the main reasons behind the price formation at auctions of Russian products in Busan at unexpectedly high level, according to the overview prepared by analysts of http://www.megafishnet.com/ based on Japanese, Russian and American sources as per 13 April 2011.

For the first time from late January 2011 the total harvest of roe pollock in Alaska as per 3 April 2011 failed to reach the level of 40,000 tonnes and amounted to less than 39,500 tonnes, with the catch rates dramatically falling from 55,000-60,000 tonnes per week in March 2011. At the same time, the fishery in the Gulf of Alaska which was conducted mostly in the waters of Kodiak and Shelikhov Strait was practically finished with the capture quotas slightly overfished and the harvest reported at ca.45,000 tonnes. At the same time, on the grounds in the eastern part of the Bering Sea the fishermen still had a quota remainder of ca.30,000 tonnes to be covered (including a quota of 3000 tonnes in the waters of the Aleut Islands, the area practically completely neglected by the fishermen), and the harvest from the beginning of the year amounted to ca.466,500 tonnes. At the same time, motherships already practically completed their operations on the pollock grounds and the factory trawlers had quota remainder for about three or four working days, while the onshore processing sector could work for some ten days at the same production rates which were observed in late March and early April 2011.

Harvest and production of pollock products in Alaska as per 2 April 2011

-

27.03.11 -02.04.11

Versus 2010

Total (tonnes)

Versus 2010

Catch

39,413

176.3%

511,186

156.2%

Commodity production

Roe

1103

191.8%

14,889

118.2%

Fillets

6277

265.7%

65,270

169.2%

Headed

1889

783.8%

25,601

118.6%

Mince

874

273.1%

11,097

146.2%

Surimi

5716

225.2%

61,192

166.7%

Fishmeal

1791

146.1%

21,256

170.1%

Note: 1 - catch data do not cover bycatch of pollock on other fish grounds; 2 - according to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the USA.

The total quota remainder for the Bering Sea fishery as per early April 2011 left a theoretical opportunity to produce ca.1000-1200 tonnes of frozen pollock roe, but according to the Japanese importers such opportunity was purely theoretical as the roe yield remained extremely low as with the weekly production at 1100 tonnes it failed to reach even 3.00% and amounted to ca.2.65%. According to the importers, in the closing period of the US Bering Sea season the fishermen will produce maximum 3000 tonnes of pollock roe, therefore the total seasonal production may be limited only to 14,500 tonnes. Together with some 1200 tonnes of pollock roe made from raw material in the Gulf of Alaska the total roe yield in Alaska in the A season 2011 could amount to ca.15,700 tonnes thus failing to reach even 16,000 tonnes, while before the start of the season many insiders forecasted that the US producers would have been able to offer at least 18,000 tonnes of pollock roe in the current spring, and even 19,000 tonnes subject to 100% quota exhaustion.

According to provisional estimates, as compared to last year the seasonal pollock roe production in Alaska in the current year will grow by less than 2000 tonnes, which means that the Japanese users will hardly be able to hope for a serious expansion of their capacities for operations with US products. Moreover, problems with shipments of high quality raw material may remain as serious as in 2010 when due to a dramatic decline of the general level of quality of products offered in the A season prices fell by more than 35% on the average (namely from about 1000 Yen per kilo to only 600 Yen).

Auction sales of US products from the A season 2011 are scheduled for 16 April 2011 (first product quality checks will start one day earlier) with a nearly one-month delay as compared to preliminary plans. Presumably, such provisional estimates of the quality of the US supply in the current season could be connected with the activity of purchases of the Russian products showed by some of the Japanese buyers at March and April auctions in Busan.

As for the situation at those auctions the biggest interest of the market specialists was caused by the fact that already from late March 2011 really large players representing powerful producers of ready-to-eat pollock roe, including companies based in the north of Kyushu (Fukuoka-Hakata), started to purchase the Russian products. Their general activity also caused strong interest; moreover it was attributed to such a quick rise of prices at auctions. According to some forecasts, the price rise could continue on the third week of April 2011, in particular, on 12 and 13 April 2011 players were expecting further sales in Busan with the supply on offer to be fairly big.

The price level for the Russian raw material at March and April auctions caused serious concerns of many Japanese users taking into account that even products of average and low quality fetched much higher prices (by 150-200 Yen per kilo) thus driving the Japanese producers into an extremely difficult situation under the current conditions on the Japanese pollock roe market (especially for ordinary everyday consumption). The thing is that their main customers - large retailers - strictly insisted on prices to be left at least at the same level, in no way higher than earlier.

In USD terms, at late March auctions high quality products were sold at 9.00 USD per kilo ex-coldstore Busan with prices for some lots rising to 10.00 USD per kilo. As for products of average quality their prices were reported at 8.00-8.50 USD per kilo. In the course of first April week auctions the product prices turned out to be even higher, though some forecasters said that in case of a strong rise of supply to 1000-1300 tonnes per week prices could show some changes.

The total supply only in the course of April auctions is estimated at more than 6300 tonnes, which is described as a very strong (probably even record high) level of weekly supply of Russian products.

According to the results of the first April auctions, prices for high quality raw material settled at 10.00 USD per kilo, while high quality products fetched higher prices of 11.00 USD per kilo, though the exchange rate of Yen to USD was far from as strong as in the closing ten days of March 2011. Prices for average quality products not only reached the level of 9.00 USD per kilo, but very often rose to 9.50 USD per kilo or more (thus closely approximated 10.00 USD per kilo). Prices for the products of below average quality already reached the level of 8.00 USD per kilo (according to some information, those products were mostly with early production dates and with very low level of maturity).

With such prices for the raw material producers of premium and gift products will hardly face serious problems as their sales efficiency is normally very high and the reserves as to prices for the raw material are fairly big. But, on the other side, sales of such products are comparably low and their high seasons are fairly limited (mostly to the New Year holidays), therefore producers mostly have to focus on sales of products for everyday consumption, production of which can really face very serious problems with such high prices. Price trends are expected to take shape at auctions in mid-April, though dramatic changes are not expected as the prospects for shipments of Alaskan products to Japan have so far remained vague.

The total volume of products from Russian grounds in the Sea of Okhotsk sold as per 11 April 2011 is estimated at ca.9500 tonnes, and as a result of the week ending on 17 April it can reach 10,500-11,000 tonnes. At the same time, the total volume of seasonal production on the grounds was officially registered at ca.29,000 tonnes. Taking into account catches in the waters of East Sakhalin and South Kuriles the total production during the season will be high and main sales will be conducted after early May holidays in Russia, moreover shipments of Russian products from the Okhotsk grounds to Busan were much more slowly than they were expected.

Snow crab

Import of Russian opilio crab to Japan in 2010-2011

.

Frozen

Live, fresh or chilled

Metric tons

Yen per kilo

Metric tons

Yen per kilo

2010

November

966

1120

991

519

December

589

1163

1243

562

TOTAL

11,655

952

12,637

440

2011

January

676

1056

617

623

Ferbruary

370

1044

11

1229

TOTAL

1046

1052

628

634

Notes: 1 - figures cover shipments of opilio, bairdi, triangle, etc. crabs; 2 - average CIF prices.

In February 2011 import of Russian snow crab products mostly represented by cooked and raw blast frozen snow crab was limited to less than 400 tonnes, but in January-February 2011 traders imported more than 1000 tonnes, ca.44% up on last year. The average import price settled at 1050 Yen per kilo (12.70 USD per kilo), 64% up on last year, and in USD terms it went up by 80%. As for prices for the Japanese purchases in the first ten days of April 2011, prices for cooked and frozen bairdi crab ranged from 17.00 to 19.00 USD per kilo, while prices for cooked and frozen snow crab fluctuated at 14.00-15.00 USD per kilo, thus showing a slight increase of 0.50-1.00 USD per kilo on the second half of March 2011. Prices for February shipments of live, fresh and chilled opilio crab (mostly live) were reported at extremely high at more than 1200 Yen per kilo, ca.50% up on prices for live red king crab. In January 2011 prices were practically 50% up on the last year indications even despite the import volumes were practically on a par.

Import of Russian red king crab to Japan in 2010-2011

.

Frozen

Live, fresh and chilled

Metric tons

Yen per kilo

Metric tons

Yen per kilo

2010

November

1093

1886

393

1139

December

393

1765

609

1123

TOTAL

4595

1659

3412

968

2011

January

398

2161

298

800

February

206

2205

3

813

TOTAL

604

2176

301

800

Notes: 1 - figures cover shipments of red and blue king crabs; 2 - average CIF prices.

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