A global shortage of farmed salmon is increasing fish prices across the board.

“We’re looking at several years of either lower or constrained supply growth for farmed salmon. That is important because farmed salmon production has typically grown around 5 percent a year over the last 20 years,” said Andy Wink, Senior Seafood Analyst with the McDowell Group.

The farmed salmon shortfall stems from a double whammy: tens of millions of fish have been lost in Chile due to an ongoing virus caused by toxic algae in warming oceans.  At the same time, sea lice are ravaging fish farms in Norway with increasing frequency and intensity. Norway is the world’s biggest farmed salmon producer, and its exports last year fell by five percent. 

Sea lice are the farmed Atlantic salmon industry’s most expensive problem, costing around $550 million in lost output each year. Fish farmers also are coming under increasing criticism for the thousands of tons of antibiotics and/or pesticides they use to control the outbreaks of disease and parasites in the cramped salmon net pens.

Despite the dousings, the farmed salmon shortfall has pushed prices to record highs. Twice last year spot prices of Norwegian fish for export approached $21 per pound, according to the Nasdaq Salmon Index.

Limited supplies of wild salmon also continued to strengthen prices into the new year. Tradex Foods reports four to six pound sockeye salmon are holding steady in the $3.60-$3.75 per pound range.

And despite the abundance of salmon fillets, wild sockeyes continue to move steadily at $6.75 to $7.00 per pound at retail counters, “largely influenced by the lack of chum and pink salmon in the market,” Tradex said.

The report added that in coming weeks “expect to see a rush for inventories as buyers analyze end user contracts to determine a need or a surplus of materials,” and “some processors mentioned strong refresh programs for sockeye, indicating that large volumes of raw materials would be destined for that. Expectations across the board for 2017 wild salmon pricing right now seem strong.”

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