The future may bode well for lobster prices across Prince Edward Island with a European free trade deal signed but this spring’s prices will hinge on the largest worldwide seafood show this weekend and final talks next month with processors, fishery officials say.
“We had our initial meeting with the processors and there will be another one after the Boston Seafood show (now known as Seafood Expo North America),’’ said P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association president Mike McGeoghegan. “With the next meeting pending, I hope we find some good will and a good price.”
The processor/fishermen meeting held recently at the Charlottetown Hotel was described as a discussion over expenses.
“We talked about fuel costs and landing them and the packers talked about electrical and ship costs,’’ said McGeoghegan.
Fishermen don’t want a $3 lobster again this year and some are threatening not to fish. But they may get a bit of a price break this spring because of the low Canadian dollar. The loonie was on par with the U.S. dollar last year when the season opened.
The light at the end of the tunnel appears to be the Canada-EU free trade deal, still a year away - which will open up a marketplace of 500 million people.
“The lobster industry has been suffering from an oversupply in recent years,’’ said Patrick McGuinness, president of the Fisheries Council of Canada. “So the expansion of this market (through the trade deal) will mean lobster processors in P.E.I. and New Brunswick will be increasing their purchases of live lobster from Atlantic Canada and Maine harvesters.’’
McGuiness told The Guardian the expansion of the lobster processing sector will have a beneficial impact on the live lobster sector. The pending free trade deal with Europe, according to economists, will be most beneficial to the agricultural and fisheries sectors.
“Over 85 per cent of our processed lobster products are exported to the U.S. and there is a growing market for lobster tails and claws,” he said. “We have made good inroads with this product into the EU. However, the tariff rate is 16 per cent and teh elimination of that tariff will enable the sector to expand significantly into the EU.”
The deal is still a year or so away, but when it happens, more than 95 per cent of seafood tariffs will disappear overnight while some will be phased out over seven years.
The fisheries council president said reducing the supply of live lobsters to the market place; eliminating the current eight per cent EU duty on live lobsters; and increased market opportunities for the lobster processing sector should benefit all in the supply chain.
“The struggle is to get this sector working together to capture the opportunities provided by the Canada-EU Trade Agreement,” he said.
The P.E.I. seafood industry will be represented at the Seafood Expo in Boston by approximately 100 participants. The huge show runs from Sunday to Tuesday.
“The province of Prince Edward Island is pleased to work with fishers, processors and other industry representatives to continue to promote our products to markets around the world,” said Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley.