Increasing levels of sea lice in salmon farms have given way to concerns there will be a reduced availability of high-quality fish come the festive season – and prices will be driven up.
Although price increases are expected in the run-up to the festive period, they are expected to follow an annual pattern, buying specialist Lynx Purchasing advised.
Lice have caused farmers in Norway to harvest fish at an average weight of under 5kg, compared to 5.5kg in Chile, according to monitoring group BarnetsWatch. Norway is the largest producer of salmon in the world, followed by Chile.
Lynx Purchasing managing director Rachel Dobson said publicans should expect prices to remain in line with their budgeted figures.
She explained: “Salmon prices always increase in the run-up to Christmas due to demand for both fresh and smoked salmon from the eating-out market, where salmon is a staple of festive menus, as well as from supermarkets stocking up.
“This year, prices were already higher than the same period last year, and will now follow the usual annual pattern of rising week-by-week through November and up to Christmas.”
Pubs buying high-grade salmon from reputable suppliers should face no quality issues, according to Dobson, who said: “Many pubs will have already taken bookings for set Christmas menus including salmon, and we’d expect that the prices they pay will be broadly in line with what has been budgeted for.
“We’re working closely with both suppliers and our customers to provide up-to-date pricing information so our customers can plan.”
Prepare for poor weather
Beacon purchasing provider and supplier M&J Seafood cautioned publicans should keep track of prices and prepare to be flexible.
Price increases are also expected on scallops, pollock, lemon sole and mackerel due to fewer landings caused by poor weather, according to Beacon's predictions.
Beacon purchasing manager Alice Bexon advised: “In order to satisfy consumer cravings but also generate profits this festive season, when fish is a popular choice, operators should take advantage of trends and demands, as well keeping an eye on price changes, and be adaptable where they can.”
Operators seeking salmon alternatives should look for fish that is freshly caught in British waters or fresh and smoked trout as effective substitutions, Dobson added.