Demystifying the economy |  Are seafood wholesalers lining their pockets?

Demystifying the economy | Are seafood wholesalers lining their pockets?

Every Saturday, one of our journalists answers, in the company of experts, one of your questions about economics, finance, markets, etc.

Posted yesterday at 4:00 pm

Nathaelle Morissette

Nathaelle Morissette

Where do the huge profits of seafood wholesalers go? Or the difference between the price paid to fishermen and the price charged to consumers, for example, for crab and lobster?

Lucette Durand

“It’s never easy to say who gets the profits,” Jean Côté, a biologist and scientific director of the Association of Professional Fishermen of the Southern Gaspésie, immediately replies. There are cases where there are no “staggering gains,” he insists.

For example, Mr. Côté recalls that at the beginning of the lobster fishing season, the fisherman received $8 per pound for his catch and his displayed price in the supermarket was $8.77.

“There are many different cases. It’s never black and white,” she adds. A point of view shared by Gabriel Bourgault-Faucher, researcher at the Institute for Research in Contemporary Economy (IRÉC).

“I am not in the secret of the gods. I don’t know the margins of all the middlemen in the supply chains, she acknowledges. But there is a bias in this question. Wholesalers are supposed to make huge profits. But wholesalers don’t always deal with fish and shellfish, there are fishermen who sell directly to restaurants or processors. »

Yes, there are gains throughout the chain, which is normal. Are there really some links that stick more in pockets than others? We don’t have the data to answer it.

Gabriel Bourgault-Faucher, researcher at the Institute for Research in Contemporary Economics

“It’s hard for me to say who is lining their pockets. It’s not us,” says Marc-Antoine Fortier, owner of Pêcheries Océanic, a fish importing company. “The margins remain the same. Everything costs more. »

He recalls in particular the explosion in container prices. Before the pandemic, Mr. Fortier was paying between $7,000 and $8,000 for a reefer container. Today, he has to shell out $30,000.

Price difference

Why is there a difference in price between what is paid to the fisherman and what is displayed in the fish market and in the grocery store? “It comes from the fact that there are several intermediaries who, at each stage, have their operating costs,” underlines Mr. Bourgault-Faucher.

The fisherman must maintain his boat and pay his fishermen. Processors must also pay their employees, maintain their building, and pay fixed costs. And on top of that come the shipping costs.

supply and demand

Obviously, supply and demand play into the equation, as in the case of snow crab, whose price peaked at the beginning of the season that began in March. Press reported that early arrivals had sold for more than $38 a pound for cooked crab in Montreal, up from $26 last year.

“Its price is set in international markets. The crab is mainly sold in the United States”, explains Gabriel Bourgault-Faucher, who adds that 70% of the crab caught in Quebec is sent to our neighbors to the south.

Inflation, fuel prices and the absence of crabs from Russia, a major exporter, have affected the price fans pay.

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