Octopus - May 2015


Increased octopus landings put some pressure on prices in 2014.

2014 was a bumper year for production of octopus, according to information presented during the Global Seafood Marketing Conference in Las Vegas in January. Total octopus production rose to about 370 000 tonnes, which is the highest level since 2009. The main producer was China, which accounted for over 120 000 tonnes, followed by Japan (ca. 35 000 tonnes) and Mexico (ca. 34 000 tonnes). Interestingly, China did not become a major producer until 2003. Indeed, in 2002 China reported landings of only 741 tonnes.

The Yucatan region in Mexico is the country’s leading producer of octopus. In 2014, a total of 24 527 tonnes were landed, compared with 13 415 tonnes in 2013 (+83%). The 2014 season was particularly good for catching two species: the Octopus maya and the Octopus vulgaris.Of the total production, about 70% is exported to the EU (mainly Spain and Italy), while the rest is largely consumed locally. Smaller amounts are also shipped to Japan.

In Yucatan, there is ongoing research related to farming octopus, with the current focus onOctopus maya, the species that holds the greatest promise for aquaculture operations. In recent years there have been major advances, including the design of tanks for grow-out and the development of a diet that makes it possible to grow the species to about 250 g, which is an acceptable size for the Mexican market.

In Japan, cold storage holdings of octopus are at a very low level. At the end of 2014, inventories were estimated at about 11 600 tonnes, which was 30% below the previous year. The main reason for this is lower supplies from Africa. Shipments from the two major suppliers, Morocco and Mauritania, were down by 33% and almost 50%, respectively, as difficult price negotiations between Japan and Mauritania stalled shipments. Since then, Japan has imported octopus mainly from Morocco. China profited somehow from this situation, as Chinese shipments to Japan increased by 23% during 2014. Other suppliers accounted for only minor volumes.

Italian octopus imports increased by 9% in 2014, to 46 200 tonnes. Thus, it appears that Italian imports are heading towards the same level as in earlier years. In 2009, for example, Italy imported 55 000 tonnes of octopus. The main supplier in 2014 was Morocco, accounting for 21% of total imports, but registering a major decline in shipments (-31.5%). Spain retained second place with 7 500 tonnes (16.2% of total), followed by Mexico (11%). Mexico registered a healthy growth in shipments to Italy, with a 45.7% increase in exports.

Spain also increased its imports of octopus in 2014, from 41 800 tonnes in 2013 to 44 200 tonnes in 2014 (+5.7%). The main supplier is neighbouring Morocco, which accounted for 18 900 tonnes or 42.8% of total imports. Other major suppliers included Mauritania (7 200 tonnes or 16% of total) and Portugal (6 400 tonnes or 14.5% of total). Statistics show that Morocco and Portugal lost market share in Spain, while Mauritania gained.

It is also worth noting that over the past decade, the USA has become a significant importer of octopus. In 2000, the USA imported about 13 000 tonnes, but this has since steadily increased, and in 2014 the country imported almost 20 000 tonnes of octopus.


On the octopus market, supplies might be a little tighter this year, especially in Japan, and therefore prices are expected to improve moderately.

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