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GLOBEFISH - Análisis e información comercial en pesquerias

Tighter supplies of snow crab and higher prices for all products


Quotas for snow crab have been cut in Canada and the United States of America and landings are down in Northern Europe. Supplies of blue swimming crab declined considerably because of the early Ramadan in Indonesia. Prices for all products are going up.


Canada’s total snow crab TAC for 2018 was set at 68 275 tonnes, 27 percent lower than the 2017 quota. This reduction has led to a rise in prices and Japanese buyers have already put in orders at USD 7.8–8.00 per lb in 4–8 oz. packages. DFO decided in April to cut the TAC for snow crab for the Newfoundland and Labrador region to 28 975 tonnes for 2018. While some areas had an increase in TAC, others were given a reduction. The average reduction for the whole region was 17 percent. DFO further announced a cut of 44 percent in the snow crab quota for the Southern Gulf of Saint Lawrence to 24 613 tonnes.

The situation for Maryland’s blue crab is good, according to the US Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This is in spite of the fact that a cold and difficult winter killed as much as 35 percent of the adult crab population in the Chesapeake Bay. Young crabs, which had spent the first part of their lives in the Atlantic Ocean, returned to the bay to mature and grow, increasing the population of young crab by as much as 34 percent this year. The estimated population in the bay is now about 371 million, down from 455 million a year ago. This decline in numbers may lead to a slow start to the harvest season in June. In 2017, the blue crab harvest in Maryland amounted to 24 500 tonnes, down from 27 200 tonnes in 2016.

International trade

Global imports of crab (all types) increased by 5.3 percent during the first quarter of 2018 compared to same period in 2017, to 85 200 tonnes. The main markets were China (24.7 percent of the total, the United States of America (18.3 percent) and the Republic of Korea (13.5 percent).

Exports by the Russian Federation grew significantly during this period, with a 22.4 percent increase compared to the same period in 2017. The dominating market for Russian Federation crab exports this year is the Republic of Korea, accounting for 65.7 percent of the total, followed by the Netherlands (19.4 percent of the total) and China (9.6 percent of the total).

Chinese exports of crab were stable during the first three months of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017, mainly imported by the Republic of Korea (30.9 percent), Taiwan Province of China (19.7 percent) and China, Hong Kong SAR (17.1 percent).

Chinese imports of crab from the Russian Federation have grown significantly over the past three years. In 2017, China was the fourth largest market for crab from the Russian Federation, after the United States of America (34 percent of Russian Federation exports), Japan (29 percent), and the Republic of Korea (19 percent). The Chinese crab market is rapidly expanding due to strong growth in consumption, according to the Russian Federation Association of Far Eastern Crab Catchers (AFECC).

US imports of crab are falling, according to US statistics. During the first three months of 2018, imports declined by 12.3 percent to 15 600 tonnes. The main suppliers were the Russian Federation (4 300 tonnes), Indonesia (3 000 tonnes), and China (2 900 tonnes).

Indonesia is the main supplier of blue swimming crabmeat to the United States of America. In 2017, Indonesia shipped 12 000 tonnes, representing 46 percent of US imports of blue and red swimming crab products. The Muslim fasting month Ramadan was early and coincided with the Indonesian crab fishery season this year, which caused a decrease of as much as 40 percent in Indonesian production because of a general low activity by the fishermen. This in turn created much tighter supplies and increased prices in the US market.


The high prices for swimming crab have affected the US market, where sales were extremely low in April and May. However, sellers were expecting that buyers would slowly accept the higher prices, and that prices up to USD 8.25 per lb would be acceptable by July.

Prices for Venezuelan crab are also climbing. After a period of low prices in the spring, US importers are now expecting a sizeable jump in prices for Venezuelan blue crab. However, the catch has been strong and prices for this product are still considered relatively low compared to prices for products from other regions. Venezuelan crab prices were around USD 17 per lb for jumbo lump at the wholesale level.

In April, prices for jumbo lump Indonesian swimming crabmeat reached USD 26.95–28.00 per lb, lower than April 2017 prices that peaked at about USD 30.00 per lb.

Prices for swimming crab are differentiated, with high prices for crab from Southeast Asia, and lower prices for crab from South America.


Supplies of snow crab will be tighter this year, as quotas have been reduced in Canada and the United States of America and landings in Northern Europe are extremely low. Consequently, prices for snow crab are increasing, and will continue to rise during the summer, as supplies get tighter. For blue and red swimming crab, the picture is mixed. Indonesia is producing a lot less this year because of the early Ramadan, which coincided with the peak of the harvesting season. However, supplies from South America are good.

China’s share of the Russian Federation’s crab exports is expected to grow even more rapidly this year. At the same time, Russian Federation crab exports to the United States of America and Japan are expected to decline.

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