After a sharp drop in August-October last year, Peru's giant squid landings are recovering to reasonable volumes, but prices remain at twice the levels of a year ago, industry players told Undercurrent News.
Although landings are recovering (see charts below), prices are still high at around $600 per metric ton -- around twice as much from last year, said one industry source.
Part of the reason is that catches remain poor in Paita, the main port of northern Peru.
“Catches are particularly poor in Paita, but now landings are at 500 kilometers to the south, which means giant squid must be transported on tracks towards the north where processing plants are located. This increases costs,” this source told Undercurrent.
Also impacting prices is the fact that volumes remain low, and were overall down by 19% last year, to 402,672 metric tons. Sources partly attributed this to lower activity of the artisanal fleet following low catches in autumn last year.
This, combined with high demand from plants for raw material, is keeping prices high, other sources from the sector in Peru said.
An executive with a Spanish-based seafood producer who buys processed giant squid in Peru confirmed landings are down. However, he said, they are not having supply problems and are therefore not looking at other species – such Argentinian Illex squid -- to substitute raw material.
Giant squid landings drop 19% year-on-year
The drop in giant squid catches started in August last year. From August to December 2013, landings averaged 24,212t, while in the first seven months of 2013, average landings were at 40,230t.
In total, landings reached 402,672t in 2013, 19% or 94,790t less year-on-year, according to data provided by the Peruvian production ministry, Produce.
The reason for last year’s low catches is La Nina, a climate pattern that causes ocean temperature changes and makes fish move from their normal areas.
Cold water temperatures have affected the presence of marine species in the Peruvian coast, such as giant squid.
"This is definitely not good for resources that have been present in our economy as giant squid, whose [negative] impact has been taking place more than a year ago,” the regional director of production Lizardo Ayon was quoted as saying back in December.
“In the area of Talara [northeast of Peru], more than two thousand fishermen that used to catch giant squid are not catching it now,” Ayon said.
Moving towards international waters
Other sources said giant squid has moved offshore for several months already. This has benefited the Chinese vessels catching in international waters which freeze the product onboard and then shipping the raw material to China for reprocessing, they said. In contrast artisanal vessels -- the fleet catching giant squid in Peru -- are not equipped to go so far offshore.
China is the number one market for Peruvian giant squid, with imports valued at $60.7 million in the first six month of 2013 and increasing demand by 11.9% year-on-year, according to the Peruvian exporters association Adex.
Spain was the second importer with more than $35m, which is a drop of 6%, as a result of tough economic climate, as Undercurrent reported. This was followed closely by Thailand, reaching $35m and a dramatic increase of 293.8% year-on-year.
In the first nine months of 2013, giant squid exports reached 232,402t, according to the latest data released by the Peruvian institution on exports SIICEX.