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February 2024 Sees Prolonged Slump in Tuna Market

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Suez canal

In February, Thai Bangkok tuna prices were at $1,400 per tonne and Ecuadorian Manta prices were at $1,450 per tonne. As the Red Sea shipping crisis continues, Thai prices are likely to fall further in the coming period, while Ecuadorian prices are stable or rising.

According to agricultural sources, the Red Sea region’s continued crisis on the Asian route to Europe has caused a serious impact, transport costs have risen sharply, and many cargo ships bypassed South Africa, pushing up the cost of reefer containers in the South African region. On the other hand, Ecuador, as the world’s other major tuna processing center, has become a more cost-effective option, with many orders flowing from Asia to Ecuador during a period of low raw material prices.

The transport route from Ecuador to Europe avoids the Suez Canal, and the problem of rising freight rates in the Red Sea region did not occur in South America, resulting in a major shift of orders for fillets from Europe to South America, and Ecuadorian processing plants entering a busy production cycle. Although there were some difficulties with the Panama Canal, mainly drought problems, which may have caused some delays, in general, there were no major problems, and freight rates did not increase.

On the fishing front, production in the Western Central Pacific continues to be good, with catches ranging from 40-80 tonnes per vessel. Prices are likely to fall further or remain low due to strong supply.

Harbours

Supply from Chinese fishing vessels will fall as the Chinese New Year holiday, but Chinese New Year is not a grand event in Thailand and factories will still maintain production. Sources predicted that prices in Thailand could fall to 1,350/tonne in March, mainly due to favorable yields and small sizes of skipjack tuna. Transshipment ports in the Pacific Island region are entering their peak season and available cold storage is becoming increasingly limited.

In Ecuador, cannery producers have seen a significant uptick in sales, while fishing production has been strong and prices stable. Sources reported an increase in catches in the Eastern Pacific last week, with skipjack tuna accounting for about 70 percent of the total catch, and expectations of a steady or rising trend prevailed, with prices likely to rise to $1,500/tonne in the second week of February.

In the Indian Ocean, Seychelles’ delivered prices are hovering at €1,400/tonne FOB, with moderate catch levels, ranging from 20-50 tonnes per vessel per day. However, due to the Red Sea crisis, traders expect Indian Ocean skipjack prices to fall.

In the Atlantic, there is currently a three-month moratorium on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) and vessels are only able to catch 5-20 tonnes of yellowfin tuna, most of which is used for freezing at -18°C and is not used as a canning ingredient. Skipjack prices are at €1,400/tonne with low production.

Skipjack tuna is still being traded at a low level on the European market at €1,700-€1,750/tonne, linked to Indian and Atlantic Ocean prices and freight rates. Some large German customers signed long-term contracts with Ecuadorian and Filipino suppliers, as higher demand was able to offset the downward pressure on prices due to higher production.

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