The price of Canada’s two most valuable seafood products is plummeting this year as consumers recoil from the impact of rising inflation.
The price of snow crab has fallen in 2022 between 60 and 65%, while the price of lobster has fallen by around 35%.
Trade data presented this week in Halifax by veteran US analyst John Sackton, president of Seafood Datasearch Market Consulting, shows demand for shellfish has collapsed in the key US retail market.
“It’s like a tide in the Bay of Fundy. Everything’s run out and we’re seeing the performance of lobster and crab being the worst of any item in the supermarket,” Sackton told CBC News during a break at the annual meeting. Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministerial Conference.
Inflation-hit U.S. consumers forgo expensive seafood
The demand that had built up during the pandemic for all types of frozen and fresh seafood propelled the Nova Scotia industry to a banner year in 2021 with revenues reaching $2.5 billion – led by the two molluscs and crustaceans.
Other Atlantic provinces also experienced a boom.
But high prices for frozen snow crab and lobster, along with a slight increase in the price of live lobster last year, are melting in 2022.
“And the reason for that is that consumers balked at the high prices at the same time that they started to be rattled by these other issues of high gas prices, inflation and concern about the lack of support. economic,” Sackton said.
“What are they giving up? They’re giving up snow crab, lobster, frozen seafood and that’s what’s really driving this change in price and market value.”
Many other seafood products have been spared by the crisis in lobster and snow crab.
Sackton mentions scallops, farmed Atlantic salmon, oysters, mussels, northern shrimp, halibut and frozen groundfish.
“These sectors of the seafood economy are not participating in this market collapse and the turnover caused by the collapse of lobster and snow crab,” he told the conference. . “That shouldn’t hide the fact that Nova Scotia scallop producers are having a great year, with more sales in Europe and the United States. That shouldn’t hide the fact that oyster markets are booming.
Back to earth on the lobster
According to Geoff Irvine of the Lobster Council of Canada, the processed side of the lobster industry has paid the price.
He said market diversification, a premium product always available and eco-certification should help the company ride out any recession.
“2021 was a fantastic year. It was an anomaly. It didn’t follow the trajectory we were on,” Irvine said. “So we come back down to earth a bit.”
What it means at the dock in a fishing province
Dockside prices paid to lobster fishermen hit a record high of $17 a pound in Canada’s largest lobster fishery in southwestern Nova Scotia earlier this year. These prices fell sharply during the summer in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where fishermen were earning $5.50 a pound.
The Canadian industry has never converted to the metric system in calculating weights.
The industry will be watching prices closely when the Southwest Nova Scotia lobster fishery reopens this fall.
“It’s definitely going to be expected to go down when this season opens,” Sackton said.
In Shelburne County, a third of jobs are in seafood
An economic impact assessment of Nova Scotia’s seafood industry released Wednesday shows the stakes in a fishing province.
Peter Norsworthy of Pisces Consulting compiled direct seafood employment in coastal counties using census data.
One county stands out in southwestern Nova Scotia.
“Probably the best example would be Shelburne County, where 35% of working people are directly employed in the seafood industry, whether it’s aquaculture, harvesting or processing,” Norsworthy said. “And you could add additional spinoffs. You know, 50% of the people employed in Shelburne County are directly and indirectly related to the industry.
Next door in Yarmouth and Digby counties, he said about one in five jobs were directly related to seafood.
The industry directly employs more than 10% of residents in Guysborough and Victoria counties, according to the study, and 7-10% of residents in Queens, Inverness and Richmond counties.
Norsworthy, a seafood industry veteran, predicted prices will stabilize at pre-COVID levels and gradually recover.
“But the depth and duration of any recession will dictate how long that recovery will last,” he says.