Middleman getting squeezed out of the BC marketplace amidst strong salmon prices

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Retailers and restaurants in British Columbia are striking out on their own when buying Atlantic salmon, many preferring to bypass distributors because of pricing pressures.

Seafood distributors told SalmonBusiness that farmed salmon prices have gone up as high as 30 percent over the past two months.

But while restaurants are starting to open up, distributors found that record farmed Atlantic salmon prices, like those seen lately, have driven some clients to skip the middleman altogether.

“Most companies are very savvy on logistics now, which was the element that enabled the middleman to have an opportunity,” says Pablo Rodriguez, Vancouver, BC-based president of Mikuni Wild Harvest, whose clients include restaurants, poke bars and households.

Rodriguez says clients that have salmon as a core element of their menu do not have much choice but to bite the bullet.

At seafood distributor Blundell Seafood in British Columbia, Atlantic salmon sales have been steady despite the strong prices “hovering around $7-8/lb (US$5.42- $6.20) depending on the size,” said Stanley Kwok, assistant general manager.

He said however that some customers are starting to look for alternatives to salmon such as Steelhead and Arctic char.

Kwok says it’s hard to predict how the market will do in the next few months but says the increasing price of fuel will be a factor. “Fuel prices are getting out of hand and a lot of farms run off diesel which is now more (costly) than regular gas.”

But Rodriguez predicts: “Farmed salmon will continue to grow its market share and price as the wild product are increasing in price due to the fuel cost of operating vessel and the volumes are lowering. The farmed product is established and has the ability to serve the market practically at will.”

A local Steelhead farmer says he too has started bypassing the middleman, opting instead to sell his harvest directly to fish shops. His reason: record feed prices. “We have to survive, so we don’t sell to the brokers anymore. We go right to the small stores,” he said.