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GLOBEFISH - Analysis and information on world fish trade

Strong squid prices last year, but will it last?


The report analyses the market situation over the year 2016 and the first quarter 2017.  

International squid prices grew significantly last year in all import markets. However, the outlook for this year’s landings is good, so there may be renewed downward pressure on prices. 


Argentine squid catches from April to December 2016 were very low, in fact, at their lowest level in 20 years. During the last three quarters of 2016, catches fell by 55 percent to 57 500 tonnes compared with the same period in 2015. Falkland Island (Malvinas) catches were even lower, with squid landings from January–September 2016 99 percent lower than the same period in 2015, totalling just 2 000 tonnes. These lower landings, coupled with increased demand for calamari in the USA as well as in Europe, pushed prices upwards to their highest levels in five years.

In early January, Chinese vessels operating in international waters near Argentina reported that catches were poor with the squid caught consisting of only small sizes. Near Peruvian waters, catches were somewhat better. Due to these scarce supplies from Argentine waters, Chinese buyers were looking for other sources of supply in January, and some were buying North Pacific squid as well as Peruvian giant squid to meet Chinese demand. It is reported that production of Peruvian squid was good, and this might ease the supply situation for processors.

The squid season in Argentina started earlier than usual this year. Usually, the season starts in February, but this year it started in mid-January south of the 44o south latitude. The early start was justified by the distribution, population structure and migratory patterns of the Illex squid, according to scientists. The first two weeks of squid fishing in the Argentine 200 mile zone ended well, with an average of 20 tonnes caught per vessel per day. Illex landings during January 2017 were at about 3 000 tonnes, compared with just 45 tonnes during the same period in 2016. However, while this was a good start, it is not necessarily indicative of a good season. For instance, in 2016, the start of the season was also good, but later catches declined. In 2016, the total catches ended at only 60 300 tonnes, compared with 126 700 tonnes in 2015 and 168 700 tonnes in 2014.

Prices for Argentine Illex firmed up during the first weeks of the season, probably due to the fact that catches outside the Argentine 200 mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) were poor. At first, prices rose to about US$2 800–3 000 per tonne free on board (FOB), but they have since fallen slightly, to around US$2 400–2 600 FOB.

As a result of the 2016 El Niño, the Peruvian giant squid fishery was poor. This, year, however, it seems to have recovered somewhat. Fishing has been better, particularly in the north of Peru, and this means higher supplies of raw material for the industry. Prices have been stable as fishers try to hold back on landings in an effort to maintain price levels.

Japanese squid imports increased by 11.7 percent by volume in 2016 compared with 2015. Chile and the Republic of Korea showed increases in shipments, while the major supplier, China, only increased exports slightly (+4.9 percent). Unit import prices increased, however, with the total value of imports increasing from US$305.6 million to US$363.4 million (+18.9 percent).

Spanish squid imports also increased in 2016 compared with 2015, both in volume and value. Import volume increased by 17.3 percent to 95 100 tonnes and value by a significant 44.5 percent to US$421.8 million.

In the USA, squid import volumes in 2016 showed no movement compared with 2015. Imports amounted to 65 800 tonnes in 2016, compared with 65 000 tonnes in 2015. Prices however increased, with import prices growing from US$215.6 million to 270.0 million (+25.2 percent). 

The report analyses the market situation over the year 2016 and the first quarter 2017.    

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