Demand in southern Europe declines

During the first half of 2012, supplies of sashimi grade tuna increased following good catches in the Indian Ocean, resulting in weaker auction prices in Japan. Yellowfin and albacore prices also fell in January as demand in southern Europe declined. Skipjack prices, however, have reached record highs.

In the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, purse seine tuna catches continued to be low partly because of the current ban on Fish Aggregation Devices (FAD) and the seasonal fishing ban in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP). As of July, skipjack catches in the ETP were still nearly 30,000 tonnes below last year’s level. Reportedly a fairly large number of fishing vessels in the ETP will opt for the November FAD ban rather than July, suggesting the impact on skipjack will likely be more acute during that period.


Lower skipjack catches in Indian Ocean

Spanish and French purse seiners also reported poor catches in the Indian Ocean, pushing up prices. In September, the price of skipjack was EUR 1,730 per tonne/ex-vessel, Mahe, and EUR 2,450 for yellowfin. Similarly, poor catch results in the Atlantic pushed prices up to similar levels in West Africa. In the same month, frozen cooked skipjack loins sold for USD 6,600/tonne DDP (Delivered Duty Paid) Spain and yellowfin loins were USD 8,500/tonne DDP Italy. European tuna processors have not been able to pass on the price increase to end users and consumption is decreasing for the first time in many years.

Total tuna landings from domestic and foreign waters increased in Japan during the first quarter of this year. Compared with last year, landings increased for all tuna species except for fresh yellowfin and fresh/frozen skipjack. Lower supplies of yellowfin tuna are compensated for by increased landings of bigeye tuna from the Indian Ocean.


Bigeye supply to Japan increases

During the May-June period, consumer demand for raw tuna remained subdued in Japan and prices were under pressure. However, the half-yearly bonus week generated short term good demand in the fresh tuna market at the end of June. Meanwhile, restaurants and supermarkets in Japan have introduced smaller sized sashimi tuna block (saku) in individual packs and servings to accommodate lower household budgets; each tuna serving has become smaller or thinner. As a result of increased supplies of bigeye tuna from the Indian Ocean, more fish are now available in the market compared with last year and prices have weakened in the auction market.

In the frozen sashimi tuna market, holiday demand increased for farmed bluefin tuna from Mexico, which is in competition with Australian origin southern bluefin. The popular Kaiten-sushi restaurants are the main outlets for bluefin tuna consumption.

Japanese imports of air-flown tuna took another dip during the first quarter of 2012 with lower supplies of both bluefin and yellowfin, which mirrored waning consumer demand for fresh tuna.
Imports of frozen red-meat quality (yellowfin/bigeye) tuna loin increased during the first quarter of the year in response to steady demand from the retail and restaurant trade. Imports increased from the Republic of Korea and Fiji, but declined from Southeast Asia because of lower catches. Supplies of frozen bluefin loins, however, declined as a result of the catch restrictions.


More affordable sashimi tuna

Sashimi tuna, particularly bigeye tuna, will be more affordable to many Japanese consumers as supply improves. Raw material prices for the canned tuna market, however, are expected by some packers to continue climbing until just before October when the FAD ban is lifted in the Western Pacific.

FAO Globefish

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