Salmon markets are looking good as global demand exceeds supply. That’s due in part to constraints on the biggest producers of farmed Atlantic salmon – Norway and Chile.
While production continues to tick upwards, growth in both countries is limited as to the maximum amount of fish they can have in the water.
Chile also is still recovering from a deadly virus that wiped out millions of fish in 2016 and Norway is battling sea lice issues. The days are gone when both countries could count on double digit increases in production to meet a setback in supply.
“Now it appears the salmon farmers don’t have any rabbits left in the hat. They are still increasing production but not to the extent in percentage terms that it used to be.”
Andy Wink is a fisheries economist and director of the fishermen funded and operated Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. He says current market conditions create a larger niche for wild salmon.
“I think we are seeing a really nice opportunity to develop especially for sockeye and brite chums. Certainly, if we could get more kings and cohos that would be fantastic as well. So I think there’s a lot of demand growth and opportunity for all wild species including pink salmon.”
Pinks could feel a pinch from competing fish from Russia which had a record catch last year.
Wink says he’s awaiting the numbers for the last four months of sales data, but sales for all salmon have been going strong and holdovers are not expected heading into the coming season.
“We saw strong pricing on the wholesale side and also volumes moved at a quick clip. Anecdotally, people I’ve been in touch with as far as sockeye goes, things are moving well even though prices are up. We don’t expect to have any big inventory hangover at this point.”
Another good sign is that the value of the dollar has held steady.
“Things have been really steady and the dollar has been going sideways in terms of its strength. That will have a huge impact on fish prices if it moves a lot but for the time being at least and coming off last season we haven’t seen a lot of change in that.”
Demand for salmon continues to increase in the US and Wink says that is clearly shown in Bristol Bay’s branding outreach that has grown from a small pilot program in a handful of stores in Boulder, Colorado in 2016 to 1,000 stores across the country.
“When we approach a retailer to work with they are generally very receptive and excited to work with us because they know their customers want wild salmon, a quality product, they want to know where it comes from and that connection with the producer, so whether it’s from Bristol Bay or other places in Alaska there’s great demand for that in the US.”
Wink says Alaska salmon is in a good market position and years of hard work is starting to really pay off.
“Yea, thus far it looks like we are in a very good situation as far as the markets we’ll be selling into. Now we just need the fish. A lot of great work has been done to develop the quality of the pack, push new products forms and new market channels are opening up, such as Costco. All of those things, even though they’ve taken years to cultivate, we’re seeing a lot of those investments bear fruit now.”