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Lobster Prices too High, Boycotting Buyers Say

CANADA - A group representing more than two dozen seafood companies is refusing to buy lobster, because of a dispute over a mandated pricing formula.

"It's not financially feasible for buyers to buy lobster at this price," George Joyce, executive director of the Seafood Processors of Newfoundland and Labrador, told CBC News Wednesday.

A government-appointed seafood pricing panel announced a formula this week that Mr Joyce says would mean a second straight year of losses for companies that buy lobster from fishermen.

"Seafood processors just can't afford to buy at the prices set by the panel," Mr Joyce said. "It didn't work last year. It won't this year."

In 2011, the Seafood Producers balked at a base rate of C$4.25 that had been imposed by the price setting panel. The group later settled in time for the spring fishery.

Mr Joyce said the members support this year's base price of C$3.25 a pound, but not the formula that adjusts prices after that. He said the same formula meant "large financial losses last year" for lobster buyers.

Mr Joyce said his 25 members have all told him that they will not buy lobster unless a different pricing regime is adopted. But with weather conditions clearing, time is a factor, as Mr Joyce said it would still take about two weeks for the lobster industry to gear up after a pricing agreement is reached.

The panel sided with a submission from the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union. Mr Joyce blamed the union and the government for needlessly interfering in the lobster trade.

"The bottom line is that the prices that the FFAW is looking for can't sustain the lobster industry in this province," Mr Joyce said.

Lucy Towers

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