Strong seafood prices boost Atlantic Canada industry

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Strong seafood prices boost Atlantic Canada industry

Seafood producers in Atlantic Canada are enjoying an extended period of high prices driven by the low Canadian dollar, problems at salmon farms in Europe and Chile, and an increasing demand from consumers in Asia.

"I say the demand is only going to increase," said Andrew Lively, marketing director at Cooke Aquaculture Inc.

"The median income is going up in Asia — 35 million people move into the middle class every year. They are looking for and are able to pay for higher-priced seafood items."

Cooke has expanded its processing plants in Charlotte County, beefed up its shipping department and more than doubled the size of its trucking company, Shoreland Transport.

"This has grown from 22 trucks to 60 in just three years," said Cooke vice-president Nell Halse. "Forty-four are long-haul trucks that deliver product to the marketplace in Canada and the U.S."

Halse said there is room for additional growth of the fleet.

She said Cooke's New Brunswick workforce has grown 22 per cent, to 1,200 people, since 2010.

Wholesale lobster prices are at about $8 a pound, and scallop prices sat at $14.50 at the recent close of the Bay of Fundy season.

"Catches have been good, prices have been good," said Daryn Janes of Fundy Bay Seafood in Lepreau. "It's a pretty good combination.

"Melanie Sonnenberg of the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association said seafood prices are generally higher in winter, but the price is staying strong.

She said people in the lobster industry are now wondering what will happen in April, when the season for Fundy's north shore opens.

The sustained higher prices are causing some uneasiness for seafood buyers.

"It makes it hard for us," said Matt Wolf of Wolfhead Smokers. "Our customers, they're not as content to have a weekly fluctuation in their price. They're expecting a price change once or twice a year."

Wolf said he's responded by communicating a lot more with his customers and keeping a close tab on all other costs.

Disease at farms in Europe and labour disputes at farms in South America initially pushed prices up dramatically, but there's been no sign of them coming back down.

"February of 2016 prices took an unexpected, from my perspective, hike of about $1.90 a pound," said Wolf. "It went up again in November and it's continued up since then."

Wolf said the wholesale price for salmon though much of 2015 was $6.45 a pound. This week it is $8.90 a pound.