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Global surimi production could face 50,000t or more shortfall this year
April 29, 2014, 09:05 AM
(undercurrentnews.com) Low inventories, combined with growing demand in Asia and stable production mean surimi demand will outstrip supply this year, by maybe 50,000 or more, said Future Seafood director Pascal Guenneugues.

Overall surimi production last year fell to an estimated 800,000t — down from 850,000 – 900,000t the previous year due to decreased production in Southeast Asia, said Guenneugues.

At the same time, global consumption increased by about 50,000t or 5%, to 850,000t. This was largely driven by significant increase in Asia — consumption in China and Southeast Asia is growing at double-digit rates per year, while production and consumption in Japan increased by more than 10% in the second half of 2013.

Rolled-over inventories from 2012 carried by surimi producers in Alaska and Southeast Asia meant these factors did not cause a shortfall last year. But this time around, stocks are empty, production will be flat and consumption is likely to continue growing at a similar rate, said Guenneugues.

The founder and director of Future Seafood, who is due to address the Surimi School in Oregon next week, estimates that stocks were at 10,000-20,000t by end 2013, compared to 50,000t a year before.

In Japan, stocks are at the lowest they’ve been since 2000, he said. Meanwhile, Hokkaido production is down by around 20% or 10,000t, while no significant increase is expected in supply of tropical surimi at current price levels, and production of Alaska pollock surimi is unlikely to increase by more than 10,000t.

Everything suggests Japan will face a deficit of 10,000-20,000t of Alaska pollock surimi this year, said Guenneugues. The drop in Hokkaido is due to a bad fishing season and a high cost of raw material compared to a stagnant end price, which means surimi processing is not profitable at the moment — as a result, processors are turning instead to options such as H&G, or fresh and whole, which are selling well to Japan, China and Korea. “Even if surimi prices have increased from JPY 240 to JPY 300 per kilo, processors are far from their cost price.”

Although this year’s Alaska pollock A season produced the highest amount of surimi since 2006, the increase is actually small – just some 3,000t up from last year. According to Guenneugues’ estimates, production of pollock surimi totaled some 216,000t last year — including 170,000t in Alaska, 44,000t in Japan and 2,000t in Russia — a 4% drop from 227,000t in 2012.

Tropical surimi output — primarily from China and Vietnam — fell more steeply, by an estimated 8% from 576,000t to 525,000t. The drop was largely due to Vietnam, where volumes fell from 140,000t to 125,000t, Thailand, which fell from 90,000t to 75,000t, and India, which dropped 10,000t to 55,000t. 

Another 25,000t came from Pacific whiting also known as Pacific hake, a 25% increase. A higher quota combined with uncertainty in the Ukraine and Nigeria means there is potential for a further increase in Pacific whiting surimi this year. 

For this year, everything points to a production level in line with last year’s, said Guenneugues. One factor that could change this is if Asian processors decide to ramp up production later in the year. This could happen if prices increase, he said.

Surimi buyers from around the world are coming in early on deals on Pacific whiting from US producers, driven by the shortage of supply from Southeast Asia.

Several large US whiting and pollock suppliers said buying from all markets is strong, with buyers moving to secure Pacific whiting surimi. Catchers are seeing more demand than usual for whiting surimi from Asian buyers, who normally use Alaska pollock and tropical surimi base.

Although the season for Pacific whiting has not even started, demand is also strong for surimi. The season opens May 15 for US motherships and catcher processors and June 15 for the shore plants, but companies have made early commitments on volumes, sources told Undercurrent.

Orders for whiting surimi were coming in at the Boston seafood show, rather than at Brussels, when the bulk of the deals would normally be done, Bersch confirmed to Undercurrent.

“For us, we have a very strong foundation on sales of whiting surimi and that is a safe place to be. The US, European Union and Japan are all showing strong demand,” Bersch told Undercurrent.

“We’re sending much more to Asia this spring than we ever have. Demand is not only from Europe and North America, where the hake [whiting] surimi has typically been sold,” said the sales director with another Seattle-based firm.

Buyers from Korea, Thailand and Japan have all come in to secure volumes of whiting, for which the 2014 quota is 428,000 metric tons, an increase of 17.26% year-on-year, said the sales director.

 “We have had inquiries from China as well,” he told Undercurrent.

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