The coronavirus outbreak is having a major impact on the fish and shellfish industry, affecting inventories and prices and sparking processing concerns.
The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), the organisation representing UK fishermen, is currently is talks with government on how best to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the fishing industry.
According to the NFFO, coronavirus has already “badly affected” the fish and shellfish market with fears that the worst is yet to come.
The crab market was an early sector to feel the consequences of the virus, the organisation said. It had responded to increasing demand from China – where the virus originated – and has subsequently seen a dramatic fall in price as restrictions bite.
Moreover, inventories of frozen nephrops were approaching capacity before the virus struck and saturation point will inevitably impact on buyers’ behaviours on the 1st hand market.
Whitefish prices are also softening as buyers face logistical difficulties and travel restrictions triggered by the coronavirus. While seasonal fisheries such as cuttlefish are likely to be impacted by restrictions in Italy and France, particularly closures in the restaurant sector.
The NFFO said there are concerns about how fish processing units will continue to operate if the workforce is impacted directly by the virus, or by efforts to self-isolate. Although it added that individual judgements on self-isolation will be made by fishermen, the impacts will be felt across whole crews and fishing businesses.
In a news update, the NFFO said: “In these unique and unprecedented circumstances, individual fishing businesses and producer organisations are taking their own steps to mitigate impacts by arranging shorter trips, staggering and planning landings, reducing quantities landed, in order to avoid flooding the market and triggering a price collapse.”