Following receipt of a market update from Direct Seafoods, see our detailed article on farmed and wild seafood, and the factors that are contributing to rising prices.
You'll have recently noticed that fish prices have been going through the roof, and it's all because of the massive demand for seafood outstripping the supply. Following receipt of a market update from Direct Seafoods, we take a look at the reasons behind the lack of availability and what you can do to keep fish on your menus as we head into summer.
It's no secret that salmon prices have been rising as of late. If it's been on your menu, you've probably noticed that it's been costing a lot more to create your favourite seafood dish. But why exactly have salmon prices doubled in recent months?
There are a few factors at play here. Firstly, historical trends show that salmon prices typically go up in the colder months and down in the warmer months. This is because the fish are more active and require harvesting more frequently in warm weather. However, this year's biomass is low, meaning fewer fish to catch. Plus, there's been an increase in demand from the USA as Chilean output has reduced due to algae blooms.
As any fish-lover knows, Norway is one of the best places in the world to get your seafood. The cold, clean waters of the Norwegian Sea are home to various delicious fish, including salmon, cod, and herring. However, recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of fish with winter sores. These sores make the fish less marketable, and as a result, they have to be sold as production-grade and offered to the domestic market first. These factors have combined to create the perfect storm for high salmon prices.
Of course, this begs the question: what does the future hold for salmon prices? While the low availability of fresh fish is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, we believe that prices will begin to ease over the next few months. However, it's doubtful they will return to levels enjoyed in previous years. In fact, if we can get to the last highest price paid before 2022, that would be seen as a good outcome. However, it's difficult to say whether this will happen with the ongoing market volatility.
If you're a fan of farmed fish, you may have noticed that prices have been creeping up lately. This is because the cost of fish feed has risen sharply due to shortages of wheat and food oil.
Both of these ingredients are essential components of fish feed, meaning when their prices go up, so does the cost of fish feed. The shortages are driven by the ongoing war in Ukraine and the embargo on Russian goods. Russia and Ukraine together produce 14% of the world's wheat, and both countries are major exporters. Russia is also the largest sunflower oil producer, with Ukraine coming in second.
As a result of the upheaval in these countries, global supplies of wheat and sunflower oil have been disrupted, leading to higher prices for fish feed - and ultimately, for farmed fish.
Plaice is now back in season and of fantastic quality – however, prices are currently high with a reduction not predicted until around June. It's also a great time to take advantage of the mild, sweet flavour of Lemon Sole. Although not a cheap option, they will be available throughout the summer, making them a great addition as a lighter dish on your menu. Megrims (Cornish Sole) are also at their best right now. With ratings 2-3 by the Marine Conservation Society, it's a responsible and delicious choice.
Dover soles become scarcer at this time of year as they move offshore, so prices are likely to be too high for most budgets. Similarly, if you prefer the firmer texture of Brill and Turbot, the current levels of catch mean that prices remain prohibitively expensive for both. However, predictions are that there will be increased landings over the next few months, which should see their cost reduce slightly.
We might be in for a bit of a rough patch where cod and haddock are concerned. Prices have been firm so far, but they're anticipated to rise as we get into the latter part of July and August. This is because the Icelandic quotas won't be completed until September, which will create shortages. Additionally, the warmer water is not conducive to the quality of either fish. However, June should see prices and availability at similar levels to what they are currently. So, if you're looking to stock up on cod or haddock, now might be a good time to do it.
As any fish and chip lover knows, cod and haddock are two of the most popular types of fish used in this great British dish. But with the issues mentioned above affecting prices so drastically, you may need to look at some alternatives to help reduce costs.
Hake is a delicious and versatile fish that is often cheaper than cod and haddock and will be in plentiful supply over the summer. However, the price isn't predicted to drop to pre-pandemic levels.
Another option is pollock, which is in its prime right now, with line-caught products being of exceptional quality. It may only be one for your Specials board though, as it can be hit and miss in terms of availability and gradings.
So, if you're looking to save money on producing this menu favourite, be sure to speak to your fishmonger or account manager now. With some lateral thinking, your customers will still get a delicious meal without breaking the bank.
Mackerel & Sardines
Mackerel is back in season and would make a great addition to your summer menu. This delicious fish is an excellent choice for those conscious about sustainability, and its versatile flavour works in many recipes. So whether you're looking for a light salad, a hearty main course, or a refreshing ceviche, mackerel is sure to hit the spot.
Prices have increased slightly compared to last year, but this affordable fish is still fantastic value for your money. So next time you're in the mood for something delicious and sustainable, be sure to give mackerel a try.
Sardines are also a great summer choice for seafood lovers looking for something a little different. These small, oily fish are a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and you can cook them in various ways. Grill, bake, or even fry them – there's no wrong way to enjoy these delicious little fish. Just be sure to start looking for them from late July onwards, when they're typically at their best. Happy sardine season!
As the summer months approach, we could see some challenges with tuna availability and pricing due to the monsoon season in Sri Lanka, a central fishing region for this type of fish. The severe weather conditions can make fishing difficult, leading to less tuna caught overall. Less catch means prices go up, so it's something to monitor if tuna is a firm fixture on your menu.
In terms of sustainability ratings, yellowfin tuna is still unreliable. The vast majority of the caught fish is rated as a 4, 5, or 4.5 on the FIP scale (Fishery Improvement Project). Therefore they're not considered environmentally friendly, and their populations are in decline. So, unfortunately, there isn't much good news on this front.
Swordfish is an ideal option for seafood lovers looking for something more adventurous. It has a dense, meaty texture and a mild, slightly sweet flavour that pairs well with various sauces and seasonings. In addition, swordfish is an excellent source of protein, selenium, and vitamin B12. The availability of Chilean swordfish (as the season is now in full swing) will help mitigate any issues arising from the monsoon season in Sri Lanka. Chilean swordfish are caught using sustainable practices, so you can feel good about serving them. Therefore, if you're looking for a tuna alternative, this fish could be your answer.
It's unsurprising that the price of fresh fish automatically impacts the price of smoked fish. However, as fish processing and smoking are labour-intensive, this adds additional cost to the end product, resulting in record highs. These increases are especially damaging during the peak summer season when smoked salmon is a customer expectation on most menus. However, with prices this high, it may soon be noticeable by its glaring absence.
We're hopeful that prices will come down soon. However, we don't expect them to drop enough to save the summer season. Therefore, alternatives to smoked salmon, such as smoked sea trout or hot smoked Chalk Stream trout, might be a better option.
Prices for smoked haddock have levelled off recently, but they could go up again if shortages occur later in the summer. We'll keep you updated on the situation so you can make the best choice for your menu.
It would be best if you now avoided mussels as they are now out of season. If you insist on having them on your menu, pockets of the product will still be available, but they will be far more expensive. Mussels are also weaker due to the warmer weather, so it's best to consume them soon after the packing date.
If you're looking for a sustainable seafood option, pacific rock oysters are a good choice. They're in season all year round, so you can enjoy them even when mussels are out of season.
Crabmeat, whilst expensive, should not be subject to the shortages seen last year. Plus, if your supplier sources their crab meat from the South West, it won't be affected by the recently publicised sustainability down rating of the Scottish crab fishery.
Native lobsters will soon start to show up around UK shores, which should assist with improved availability and hopefully reduce prices further. Summer is the native lobster season, so it's the perfect time to enjoy its delicate briny flavour.
Brown shrimps are currently expensive due to their low landings rate. This is because the female shrimp travels offshore at this time of year to hatch larva, impacting the numbers caught. Unfortunately, the situation isn't won't improve until July when the shrimp move back inshore, so price improvements won't happen until then.
Other increases are for live shellfish, which is now out of season and therefore a poorer quality and less harvested - think clams, palourde, and razor clams.
Coldwater prawn prices are rising as Russian caught stock is no longer usable, and alternatives are now in high demand. Sales prices are also increasing to take account of higher processing, fishing and logistics costs. There was also a raw material shortage ahead of the spring fishery in the Barents Sea, so many suppliers are still playing catch up.
This combination of issues means that an increase of 20-30% is forecast by some suppliers, which isn't great news for customers who have this product as a summer menu staple. However, if you're looking for a more cost-effective alternative, frozen king prawn prices are currently reasonably stable.
It's fair to say it's been a difficult few months for frozen products. The surge in demand for frozen whitefish following the easing of pandemic restrictions in the UK has far outstripped supply. The ongoing war in Ukraine has inflated prices, as 30% of the white fish entering Western Europe used to be Russian - primarily via Chinese manufacturers. This supply has ceased due to the embargo on Russian products. The loss of this cod, haddock and pollack has meant a scramble for other frozen stocks, and prices have risen dramatically as the search for supply intensifies.
Coated lines are affected, too, not just because of the situation mentioned above but also due to the increased cost of the raw ingredients required for breadcrumbs and batter.
Frozen pollock was already in short supply due to the pandemic. However, as a considerable proportion of this species is landed by Russian vessels, the market is seeing substantial price increases. Therefore, suppliers are looking for more viable alternatives, such as South African hake.
The bottom line is that fish prices are high right now, and they will only go up. So if you want to make sure your restaurant stays stocked with the seafood your customers love, you need to think ahead. Speak to your fish wholesaler about potentially viable alternatives, and make sure you have a solid backup plan in place. There's no such thing as being too prepared when it comes to food. For information about the fish wholesalers that Beacon partners with, drop us a message via Live Chat, and we'll recommend the perfect supplier for your needs.