May 29, 2014
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Salmon prices at wholesale show very marked seasonal variations for both wild and farmed fish. It’s a pattern that’s been tracked by Urner Barry- the nation’s oldest commodity market watcher since 1895.
Prices pretty much fall during the June, July, August and September period and they begin rising again pretty much from November through April or May. 2
John Sackton is a market expert and publisher of Seafood.com, an Urner-Barry partner. This pattern is very well established, he says, and two things drive the cycle –
One, is there’s a growth cycle for farmed salmon, which is they eat more food and grow faster at certain times of the year, and so the harvests, particularly those that come into the US market from Chile for example, really peak in June, July and August, which are our summer months and the winter months in Chile. The other thing is the opening of the wild salmon season. All of a sudden you get a lot more diversity and availability of Alaskan salmon.
Sackton says buyers of both wild sockeyes and farmed salmon are starting to push back a bit on high prices. That’s likely reflected in the $3.50 advances for the first reds at Copper River, down 50 cents from last year.
And it’s also consistent with our cyclical thinking that we’ve seen the high price on salmon for right now and the next few months we’ll see some sort of downward trend.
A big wild card this summer is the projected 72 million sockeye return at British Columbia’s Fraser River. Sackton says Japanese buyers, who have been somewhat priced out of the sockeye market in recent years, are hoping that a big run will open up more opportunities. Even though they’ve been buying less, Japan is still an important part of a three legged sockeye stool.
You’ve got your US fresh/frozen market, the Japanese market and the European customers and you’ve got the canned pack. If the Japanese part of that equation is a bit cautious because they are hoping to see some big price break at Fraser, they are slow to commit to contracts for the pack earlier in the year and that can put price pressure on everybody.
Timing also will come into play – the Fraser run typically arrives in August, several weeks after the big sockeye haul at Bristol Bay.
So what this is going to mean this year, in my opinion, is that there will be more uncertainty about what the final price is because obviously you’ve got a run coming in later. I don’t know how it will affect the fishing price except that usually tends to follow where people expect the markets to go.
Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, an Alaska corporation proudly supporting Alaska’s coastal communities and the Alaskans who depend on fishing for their livelihoods and culture. www.oceanbeauty.com In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.