Fish supplies and limited harvest set to increase prices

By James Wallin

- Last updated on GMT

Fish supplies and limited harvest set to increase prices
The increasing use of sea bass on pub and restaurant menus is putting pressure on supplies, while salmon prices have hit 30-year highs, a report has warned.

The latest Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast warns that operators should be looking to switch to other types of fish to ensure best quality and value.

The report also warns that unseasonal weather over the past few months will have consequences on the spring harvest with staples such as salads, soft fruits, root crops and green veg all likely to be harder to get and more expensive.

Rachel Dobson, Lynx Purchasing managing director, said: “Over the past few years sea bass has moved from being a special to a regular dish on many menus, and we’re now seeing it offered all year around by many operators in the branded pub and casual dining sector.

Impact

“That inevitably has an impact. Most sea bass on menus is farmed, and our suppliers are now getting smaller fish from the main producers in Turkey and Greece. That can affect margins, because it may take two fillets instead of one to make a main course, and in the longer term those smaller fish never have the chance to grow to maturity.

“The appeal of sea bass to chefs is that it has a delicate flavour that works very well with sauces and accompaniments, but there are other fish that fit the bill. Both pollack and cod are forecast to be in good supply, while flat fish including brill, dabs, Dover sole, megrim and witch should also at their best quality this spring.

“Salmon is another menu staple, and Norwegian salmon prices hit a 30-year high at the start of this year after Russia relaxed its import ban.

“With both species. it’s harder for the branded operators to switch quickly, so independents can get an advantage this spring and summer by working with suppliers to keep menu flexible and get the best quality and prices.”

The Market Forecast also sounds a warning note on the impact of the UK’s unpredictable weather patterns on produce this spring. The long, mild spell that lasted through November and into December, followed by periods of torrential rain in many parts of Britain in both December and January, has left both growers and produce suppliers waiting to count the cost.

“Many crops planted in the autumn to be harvested this spring had an early growth spurt due to the mild weather,” said Dobson, “meaning they have either had to be harvested earlier, or will have struggled to sustain quality right the way through until picking.

Warm spell

“As we all know, the warm spell was followed by severe flooding in many areas, which inevitably had a further impact. Some seasonal veg staples such as carrots, parsnips, cauliflowers and cabbage have been harvested earlier, requiring a switch to more expensive imports as home-grown supplies run low later in the spring.

“We’re advising customers planning menus for restaurants, pubs and hotels that salads, soft fruits, root crops and green veg are all likely to see some challenges in terms of both price and availability.”

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