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High halibut volumes in Alaska likely to impact prices

Sustainability Halibut Processing +6 more

Alaska has had two weeks of strong halibut landings, prior to the opening of the main halibut season in Russia, according to this weeks Tradex Foods 3-Minute Market Insight.

Just over 1.5 million pounds were landed in Alaska during the past two weeks, a similar level to the same time period in 2016. Fresh prices have been strong as of late, but Tradex sees room for a potential drop due to the recent spike in supply. Frozen inventories on 2016 H&G and fletches are still available, with prices on fletches coming down a bit since the fall.

1-3lb IQF halibut fletches were in the mid-$14 range last week, coming down from the mid-to-high $15 range in November and December.

The Russian halibut fishery - processed in China and the Ukraine - typically caters to a different market than once frozen product processed in North America.

Russian halibut is harvested as bycatch at the moment, before the quota system begins in mid-May. The Russian quota is slightly less than 5,000 metric tonnes, with the majority allocated to the Western Bering Sea - this is about half of the Total Allowable Catch for Alaska halibut. The quota has been stable for many years, and pricing remains strong, as raw materials have increased year-to-year.

Tradex spoke to Lou at Chang International, a regular importer of Russian halibut products, to elaborate on the state of Russian raw materials.

With raw materials strengthened by about a dollar per kilogram year-to-year, Lou confirmed pricing on Russian halibut fletches processed in China to be between $13 and $15 per pound.

Halibut fletches produced in the Ukraine are on the same level, at $13.25/lb in Vancouver for chem-free IQF twice frozen fletches. Tradex has seen price stability on twice frozen halibut throughout the last six months, a variance of about 50 or 75 cents per pound from single frozen fletches.

Twice frozen inventories will continue to be sourced from Russian bycatch until mid-June - keep an eye out, advises Tradex, as prices could increase another 50 cents as supply has been short.

To see the report, click here.

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