St. John’s, NL, 28 June 2022 – The Association of Seafood Producers (ASP), representing the majority of shrimp processors in the province, responded today to a media release from the FFAW expressing ‘outrage’ at a decision of the province’s Standing Fish Price Setting Panel. The Panel selected ASP’s offer of $0.90 for summer shrimp.
“The Panel’s decision is the right decision, and the rationale is clear and grounded. There are good reasons why the $0.90 was right,” says Derek Butler, Executive Director of ASP.
Butler says Quebec’s own Regié or arbitration panel recently arbitrated a similar price to this one for the Quebec shrimp industry. Butler acknowledges it was a correction downwards from the spring pricing.
“Our shrimp was simply overpriced. Hence we had no spring fishery. We had no fishery last year, when harvesters chose not to fish. They didn’t fish in spring 2020 either, and they didn’t fish in spring 2017. But when producers can’t buy, it’s the same old language: to the barricades!”
Butler says the FFAW are misrepresenting a number of other factors behind the Panel decision and the position which ASP submitted in arbitration earlier this month. Among them, he says, Canadian trade data showed declining markets – which is actual sales – while the market report went up. Butler says that was wrong.
Butler also challenges the FFAW representation that harvesters can not make money at $0.90.
“The FFAW had a sample costing for a shrimp vessel in their submission to the Panel, and it showed a boat gross margin of $43,000 per trip on a $1.20 per pound shrimp. If you run that same table with the $0.90, the gross margin is still there, especially if some of the overinflated costs are adjusted to more accurate figures,” says Butler.
Butler says NL producers will be losing tens of millions of dollars on crab this year, and can not sustain further losses on other species: “If boats are allowed to make money, then so can companies. But this year we are not, and the FFAW clearly thinks we should lose more.”
“But the FFAW complaints about producers not buying when we would lose money is grounded in ideology. They talk about the need to put profits second, except for harvesters,” says Butler.
The irony should not be lost on people, Butler says. He says harvesters access a common property resource for relatively low cost, and then sell their licenses for millions to retire. And he says many of the larger fleet he deals with are not true owner-operators, they actually hire captains. That is a cost they choose, and they could, he says, operate their own enterprises at significantly lower costs.
Butler says the industry model is dated and needs a rethink: “Canadian taxpayers should ask if they are getting the best value out of the resource.”