One man's gain is another man's ruin

Farmed Salmon
You know how they say the grass is always greener the other side of the fence. Well for anyone vaguely connected to the salmon business you can’t help but take an envious glance over the fence and see the position salmon farmers find themselves in. For a snapshot view there’s no better place to look than the 1st quarter figures issued by Grieg Seafood last week.

In cricketing terms Grieg Seafood would be described as a middle order batsman. They are a Norwegian owned company with farms in Scotland, British Columbia and Norway. In their figures they reported an uninspiring 1st quarter harvest volume of 13,365 metric tons, an increase of just 2.8% on the corresponding period last year.

Now the interesting bit. They achieved, before taxes and after fair value adjustment of biomass, a profit of NOK 172.70 million, a remarkable 279.81% increase across their bottom line compared to the same quarter last year.

They attribute their success not to the stunning performance of their management team but the ‘historically strong market’ heavily influenced by the world shortage of fish and an exceptionally strong US market caused by the Algal bloom in salmon farms in Chile. With Grieg promising to improve operational efficiency and bring costs down to ‘industry average or lower’ you realise their results could have been even better. It’s the salmon industry’s reporting season and the results are the same everywhere (apart from those with interests in Chile). Massive profits and prices still rising.

“One man’s gain is another man’s ruin”…… Of course there are always losers and as you go down the food chain processers, wholesalers and retailers, have had no opportunity to get in front of the price curve. instead we all playing catch up and there will be casualties. In Europe there has been a merger of a couple of large smoke houses and processors while rumours persist of several businesses having trouble meeting their commitments. Customers must prepare themselves for more possible increases and no guarantees for long term fixed pricing.

While I wistfully flick through the financial pages my eyes are drawn to the commodity prices of sugar, coffee and wheat and realise it’s only a matter of time before there is a financial instrument of some sort available to trade salmon futures in order that we can insure and hedge against these violent price swings.

Sea Trout
Welsh coracle caught fish have been as rare as hen's teeth and although we have seen a couple of nice fish they must now compete with other wild fisheries around the UK whose season has now started.

Wild Salmon
Some wild fisheries in Scotland and Southern Ireland have started catching fish but come the 1st of June is when most fisheries season will kick off.

It’s been a strange season, the French caught their increased quota of 30 tons well before the season closed and in theory the UK fishery was confident that they would also experience a bumper season, but it just has turned out like that. Although up on last year’s figures we just haven’t seen consistent catches. At the beginning of the season all the fish seemed to be caught down river where they hadn’t been caught in large quantities for years, and now at the end of the season they are all being caught up river with very little in between. There have however been good sightings of elvers in other river systems, other than the River Severn so the elusive elver continues to baffle us as it always has. In fact elvering has been so poor this year I haven’t even ventured out to watch the fishing but as it’s the last tide this weekend and feel as though it’s probably time to pull on the wellies.

This week we passed our annual MSC audit which is perfect timing to announce that NE Atlantic Mackerel regaining its MSC status. After suspension of its certification in 2012 a body of fishermen and government ministers across international boundaries have worked tirelessly to prove the sustainable credentials of the fish, and now after a 2 year assessment have passed the MSC’s blue tick eco label. Sure to have MSC approved fish to offer soon. North East Atlantic cod is next MSC fish category seeking approval.

Anyone who has visited the site in the last few weeks can’t have failed to notice that significant building works have taken place, and we now have dismantled our old workshop and storage facilities. The old stone barn we have been refurbishing to house our new shop /restaurant/café is now visible for all to see. The new roof goes on this week and we are now planning for an open date sometime in October.

Barn rebuilt