The Winding Glass: Harvesters lost money in 2020. Can they make it up this year?
2020 has turned out to be a great sales year for the seafood industry, as frozen seafood became one of the primary beneficiaries of changing consumer behavior during the pandemic.
Frozen seafood sales at retail rose 30% over 2019.
But many harvesters, especially those whose seasons started in the spring and early summer as the pandemic took hold did not see prices reflecting these results.
In Bristol Bay, the base ex-vessel sockeye price offered by packers was $0.70 per lb, down 65 cents from 2019’s offer of $1.35. According to the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA), this cost the fleet $130 million, or roughly $75,000 per vessel.
Packers have generally offered a retro payment on top of the base price, once the sales value of the sockeye pack is known so there may be an additional payment. But it is not contractually guaranteed, and harvesters know that many other Alaskan fisheries had and are having difficulties.
But throughout the fall, members told the association that something had to be done about pricing.
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