Forecasts mixed on next season’s salmon prices

News outlets have been offering conflicting reports about what to expect for next season’s salmon prices in recent days, with fisheries reporter Laine Welch saying in the Alaska Dispatch News that things do not look good and Seafoodnews.com run by John Sackton saying they do.

Sackton reported Tuesday that salmon roe sales are picking up in Japan. For the current year, ending March 31, U.S. exports of salmon roe to Japan are predicted at about 6,000 tons, and that good roe is in short supply.

For the year, about 6,000 tons of salmon roe to be processed into sujiko (salted salmon roe still in the skein, made from sockeye roe) and ikura (salmon caviar separated from the skein made from chum roe) will come from the United States, and about 2,000 tons from Russia. Sales are reported to be good.

These figures represent a sharp increase of about 80 percent compared to a year before when purchase slowed down due to high prices (3,500 tons from the U.S. and 1,000 tons from Russia). 

In 2015, prices came down and sales improved. Now inventories are depleted, setting up a good sales season for 2016, Sackton says.

Welch, however, listed a number of reasons not to expect salmon prices to jump, including:

• Global currencies remain in disarray. 

• The ongoing Russian seafood embargo diverts more farmed salmon to the United States.

• Tons of product remain in freezers from back-to-back bumper sockeye runs. 

One plus Welch pointed out: Aggressive market promotions have kept reds moving briskly at retail outlets at home and abroad, removing some of the backlog. 

Paul Shadura, manager at Inlet Fish Producers, said the Welch article is probably the more accurate.

He said that although roe prices are a critical factor in driving fish prices, anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the value, the reason sales in Japan are so high is because anyone who has roe left this time of year is dumping it on the market. It does not reflect the value derived from the fish.

“The fact remains that we have a glut of supply of salmon in the world market right now, with another large projection in the Bay, and an increased projection in Cook Inlet, so I’m anticipating some depressed prices that we’re going to see on the grounds this year in every big area.”

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.

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