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Alaskan sole proves thin on the ground

Rob Reirson
19 June 2017, at 12:00pm

Supplies of yellowfin sole, rock sole and flathead sole fillets are short in China right now, according to Rob Rierson in Tradex Foods’ latest 3-minute market insight.

In the twice frozen market, processing plants are not getting the supply they need and they are blaming it on poor fishing out of Alaska. We're hearing that a few large vessels in Alaska have already stopped fishing for these species while, as we approach the summer months, more boats will stop fishing for them, as the texture of the fish becomes too soft. 

Sizing is smaller than previous years and on top of that, more plants got involved in sole processing this year because of what happened in the pollock market. Plants are expecting sole raw materials to stay short and are hoping for a better supply by the fall. 

In Alaska, roughly 40 percent of the 154,000 tonne quota for yellowfin sole has been harvested. As for rock sole, nearly 27,000 tonnes have been harvested in the Bering Sea / Aleutian Islands. For flathead sole, roughly 10 percent of the combined quota between BSAI and the Gulf of Alaska has been harvested and is basically non-existent in the market right now. 

Yellowfin sole raw materials pricing in China are up about $200 per tonne from last year. Plants are telling us that pricing will stay strong into the fall and will continue to stay strong even if the supply improves. This is because demand for sole will be even stronger as Chinese New Year approaches. 5oz Skinless boneless yellowfin and rock sole are priced in the $2.45-$2.50 range.

Pricing for sole on TradexLIVE has remained fairly steady in 2017, but is now on the rise as anything larger than a 5oz fillet is quite hard to find. Our recommendation is to take a position on any sole you find.