Credit: Cordova Times

Impacts from closures of restaurants, hotels, casinos and cafeterias will really be felt in coming weeks when slowdowns at food service ripple through the supply chain. Food service means suppliers of prepared foods to those eating outlets.

For seafood, the biggest danger is the buildup of inventory in freezers, says market expert John Sackton at SeafoodNews.com.

Andy Wink,  director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, agrees.

“If you have plants that  have product coming in and no workers to fill it, you’re going to get that overflowing cold storage situation. On the consumption side, if people aren’t going out to eat and going out to the market to buy fish and seafood, that’s going to take consumption down as well. So there’s a couple different ways that it’s working against  moving seafood through the supply chain.”

US and global freezers already were full for the 40 day Lenten season; then the coronavirus caused exports from every country to collapse. That will be the biggest obstacle to both future recovery, Sackton predicts, and even the ability to conduct some spring harvests.

Sackton says there are three things to watch closely – the first is logistics.

With border closings and the shutdown of air travel, much of the available air cargo capacity has been cut. In parts of Alaska, grounded ferries that normally would be hauling fish to market are adding to the gloom.

Second is financial, as food service customers experience big declines. Sackton says government no-interest loans and guarantees will be critical to keep business flowing.

Third is seasonal harvests  – what will happen at Copper River in mid-May and the roll out of Alaska’s entire salmon fishery in terms of enough processing workers and even paying fishermen?

Sackton says “if left to market forces alone, the dock price in a lot of fisheries would fall below the cost to harvesters to land that fish, meaning there would be little reason to go fishing.”

On a bright note, online seafood sellers already are seeing boosts in sales.

Meanwhile, goods shipped through the Port of Alaska in Anchorage are steady, shipping lines Matson and TOTE Maritime told KTUU-TV. Goods coming through that port service more than 85% of Alaskans.

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