GLOBEFISH - Information and Analysis on World Fish Trade

Fish prices hit record heights in early 2018 on tight wild supplies and strong global demand


The report analyses the market situation until March 2018. 

Global fish production is expected to continue increasing in 2018, with aquaculture harvests now accounting for around 49 percent of the total. Although a good outlook for the Peruvian anchovy fishery this year is likely to push growth in global wild catches into marginally positive territory in 2018, consistent 4–5 percent annual expansion in aquaculture production will likely see it overtake capture fisheries as the major source of fish for all purposes within 2 years.

In the case of food fish, tighter supplies for a number of key wild-caught species including cod, herring and cephalopods will contribute to further reduction in capture fisheries’ share of the forecasted 20.7 kg of fish consumed per capita in 2018 to around 45 percent. Meanwhile, projected growth in global harvests of shrimp, salmon, tilapia, pangasius, seabass and seabream will contribute to a 2.9 percent increase in per capita consumption of farmed fish to 11.4 kg. Overall, per capita consumption of fish continues to increase at around 1 percent per year, driven primarily by income growth in emerging economies and the associated increase in seafood expenditure.

Early indications in 2018 suggest that international seafood trade is set to expand by some 8.3 percent in USD terms this year. This is the result of a weaker US currency so far in 2018 compared with 2017 as a whole, as well as favourable economic conditions that are persisting globally despite escalation in the ‘trade war’ between the United States of America and China and widespread monetary tightening by central banks. Demand for seafood is strong in developed and developing markets alike and sharp price increases are being observed wherever supply growth is insufficient. The disparity between total value growth (+8.3 percent) and the expected 0.7 percent increase in traded volume reflects the continuation of these upward trends for several highly traded commodity categories in 2018. Salmon, pangasius, cod, octopus and bivalves, as well as year-on-year gains in fishmeal prices have all contributed to broad-based upward pressure on seafood prices that has pushed the FAO Fish Price Index (FPI) to all-time record heights, peaking at 165 in March of this year.

Seafood exports from the world’s largest exporter, China, should be boosted in 2018 by improved economic conditions in Japan and strong demand from regional trading partners in East and Southeast Asia. In India, strong growth in export revenue is expected to continue on the back of good harvests of farmed shrimp. Good demand from the US market is also benefitting shrimp and tuna exporters in Latin America and Southeast Asia, as well as the salmon sector in Chile. In the EU28, a relatively strong economic outlook is supporting firm demand for a range of species and is forecast to translate into accelerated import growth of around 10 percent in 2018, although appreciation of the euro versus the US dollar is an important factor in this calculation. Norway is the major beneficiary of the positive seafood market conditions for the EU28, taking in record export revenues for cod and salmon. Meanwhile, seafood exports out of the Russian Federation have picked up on good groundfish prices, while imports by the Russian Federation have been helped by a more positive macroeconomic environment despite the trade sanctions that remain in force.

An increasingly important consideration affecting the medium-term outlook for seafood trade is the ongoing trade dispute between the United States of America and China. The latter is one of the largest seafood suppliers to the United States of America, both as a producer and as a processor and re-exporter of US fleet catches, including salmon, cod and Alaska pollock. As a result, it is China that is expected to suffer relatively more from the introduction of tariffs of up to 10 percent on a range of seafood items imported into the United States of America. On the other hand, US lobster and crab producers are also set to lose from the retaliatory imposition of 25 percent import tariffs by Chinese authorities. The expected decrease in trade flows between the United States of America and China for the affected species represents an opportunity for many other countries, however. Canada, India and Southeast Asian producers such as Indonesia and Thailand are set to benefit as exporters to the United States of America, while Canada, the Russian Federation and Norway can potentially fill some of the US-supplied shortfall in the case of China.

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