January and February used to be the slowest months in the year for the lobster marketplace, back before US and Canadian exporters began selling to China. But no more. This year they sold every large lobster they could buy to the Chinese for that nation’s week-long New Year and Spring Festival celebrations in late Jaunary. They then started selling and shipping lobster here and abroad for Valentine’s Day.
Both Canadian and Boston shippers spoke of problems getting air space for freight. A Canadian exporter explained that Canadian logistics are far different from those of the US. The winter schedule for all Canadian airlines, he said, is reduced compared to the summer schedule. Far less capacity, weather delays, and cancellations leave dealers and exporters less able to get goods to market.
Despite these frustrations, the exporter stated, “The Chinese now drive the January market and higher prices. In the very recent past, January was a black hole that we just tried to avoid.”
The weather was such that those still fishing offshore were able to get out only once in a week to 10 days. For Downeast Maine and Nova Scotia fishermen it was more like once every two weeks.
The Canadian exporter called fresh caught quality terrible and said, “Ten to 15 percent are soft and 15 to 25 percent are culls.”
With the growing strength of the US dollar and the difference in the exchange rate, a Maine dealer said Canadian dealers could buy lobsters at C$7/lb (US$6.35), ship them to Maine for C$6.50/lb (US$5.90), and still make a nickel or dime (per lb) profit after paying the freight.
But US dealers were having to pay $6.75/lb for what one called, “A product that’s not any good. Then we have to pick it up and (pay) transportation charges,” he said. Although he could get back $4.40/lb for any culls and softs, which made up 30% of the product, he complained, “I’m losing $2/lb on everything I buy,” quickly adding that he hadn’t been doing much buying.
Tubed product was much the same with a dealer saying, “You invested, you spent all this money and waited to get your investment back, and you made nothing. If you were lucky, you broke even.” He added, “Every day that I call Canada, I can get them for a dime less, and they’re fresh caught, not pounded. The tubed I can buy 20 cents per lb cheaper because they have to move them.”
Commercial Fisheries News appreciates the cooperation from within the lobster industry that makes this price report possible. The following prices were paid to fishermen as of Feb. 11-14. Prices listed do not include bonus or dividend, except inadvertently when quoting co-op and private dealer prices…
Read the rest and much, much more in the March issue of Commercial Fisheries News.
Read online immediately and download for future reference.