Weaker supplies of squid


Squid fishing during the first half of 2023 has been disappointing, both in Argentina and to some extent in Peru. Argentine landings of Illex squid are about half of what they were at this time last year. Landings of giant squid in Peru have been somewhat better, particularly in the beginning of the year. Octopus catches off Mauritania and Morocco are expected to be about the same as last year.


A look at statistics shows that global landings of octopus have risen over the years, and for the past 10 years has been between 350 000 and 400 000 tonnes. According to biologists, this is not sustainable, and a certain decrease in supplies must therefore be expected, either as a measure to achieve sustainability, or because landings will decline as the resource is depleted. Since 2017, when landings peaked at 402 000 tonnes, catches have decreased by about 6 – 7 percent.

In late May, Morocco announced that the octopus season would be delayed until 10 July and run until 15 September. The total quota for the season was set at 14 400 tonnes, which was 400 tonnes more than last year.

Octopus is a popular food during the holiday season, and according to reports from the Mediterranean region, tourists are flocking to the region, and spending money. Demand for octopus will therefore be high during the summer holidays, according to some observers.

However, statistics show that sales are down worldwide. Nonetheless the fishing season is expected to go well, and that would push prices down a little. So far in 2023, average prices are higher than last year. The impact of inflation on consumer spending is still uncertain. Some believe that prices will increase as the season gets started and product becomes available.

However, some observers do believe that octopus prices will decline as a result of lower demand. Inflation and a reduction in purchasing power will significantly affect the overall market for seafood, including octopus.


Japan’s imports of octopus made a jump during the first quarter of 2023, when imports increased by 65.8 percent to 10 434 tonnes compared to 6 293 tonnes in the same period in 2022. The largest suppliers were Mauritania with 3 976 tonnes (38 percent of the total), China with 2 087 tonnes (20 percent of total) and Viet Nam with 1 976 tonnes (18.9 percent of total).

Imports into the Republic of Korea also increased, but by much less. Even so, Korean imports were greater than Japanese imports, and amounted to 16 562 tonnes during the first quarter of 2023, compared to 14 951 tonnes in the same period in 2022. The largest suppliers were China, Viet Nam and Thailand.


According to official data published by the Argentine Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fishing, the Argentine squid fleet landed 22 189 tonnes of squid during March 2023. This was 33 percent less than during March 2022. The decline continued strongly in April, when only 7 520 tonnes were landed. This was down 80 percent from the 36 384 tonnes landed in April 2022. So far this year, landings are well below those of 2022. According to Spanish importers, supplies of Illex squid have been poor this year, mainly because of the poor landings in Argentina.

The poor Illex catches in Argentina affected prices strongly on the Chinese market. Strong demand in China, as well as elsewhere in Asia, drove prices up.

El Niño gets the blame for the poor catches of Illex squid in Argentina. Changing water temperatures have created what is called a “moderate or mild” El Niño, with water temperatures near the coast about 2 – 3 degrees Celsius above normal.

Some are expecting a more intense El Niño from June, and this would affect the catches of giant squid in the Pacific. Peruvian catches of giant squid (Dosidicus gigas) were quite good in January and February, but then declined. As a consequence of both the poor Illex catches in Argentina and the declining catches of giant squid in Peru, giant squid prices have been rising. The reason for the good catches early in the year is probably that there has been a moderate increase in water temperatures.

While prices for giant squid were dropping in January and February, in April and May they were beginning to rise again. Peruvian giant squid is to some extent a substitute for Illex squid, and with Illex landings being poor, prices for giant squid are on the rise.

The catches of Loligo squid around the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) was slightly below those of last year during the first season, which ran from 26 February to 30 April.  The second season starts on 30 July and runs until 1 October.


The international trade in squid and cuttlefish declined during the first quarter of 2023 compared to the first quarter of 2022, reflecting a much more difficult supply situation this year.

Japanese imports of squid and cuttlefish during this period almost held their own, with just a 1.5 percent decline in volume, which amounted to 31 440 tonnes. The largest supplier, China, lost ground, though, and saw a 4.7 percent decline in shipments.

Total Chinese imports of squid and cuttlefish from Peru during the first quarter increased from 5 117 tonnes in 2022 to 27 588 tonnes in 2023 (+439 percent). Chinese imports of squid and cuttlefish increased by 12.1 percent, from 86 719 tonnes during the first quarter of 2022 to 97 220 tonnes in the same period in 2023.

China’s exports of squid and cuttlefish, on the other hand, declined by 12.8 percent to 124 152 tonnes. The major destinations all saw reductions in imports from China: Japan by 5 percent to 22 671 tonnes, Thailand by 21.3 percent to 19 665 tonnes, and the Republic of Korea by 2 percent to 14 484 tonnes.

Republic of Korea’s imports of squid and cuttlefish increased during this period by 16 percent compared to 2022, to 38 550 tonnes. Spanish imports also increased by 15.6 percent to 69 276 tonnes, while imports into the United States of America dropped by 41.6 percent to just 14 041 tonnes.

US squid imports from China dropped by 60 percent during the first quarter of the year. A total of only 2 707 tonnes worth USD 14.9 million were imported. The import value dropped be 63 percent. This trend continued in April, when US imports of squid from China again dropped to 808 tonnes worth USD 4. 1 million, a decline of 49 percent by volume and 55 percent by value compared to April 2022.


Supplies will be tighter this year. More so for squid, for which landings have been poor in Argentina but somewhat better in Peru. It is expected that Peruvian giant squid will capture market shares from Argentine Illex squid in the most important markets.

For octopus, the supply situation may be a little easier, but there might possibly be a shortage here, too. Prices for octopus may go either way, but if inflation rates and consumer purchasing power is a major determinant, prices will probably go down.

The summer holiday season in Europe is just starting, and judging from flight and hotel bookings, demand during this season could be good. This could push prices a little upwards, mainly in the Mediterranean region.

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