SeaFood Business

MAY 2014

SeaFood Business is the global trusted authority for seafood buyers and sellers. We are the seafood industry's leading trade magazine with more than 30 years of experience. Our coverage is based on the "business" of buying and selling seafood.

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Page 26 of 42

Top Species 22 SeaFood Business May 2014 Visit us online at Photo courtesy of Clear Springs Foods Mahimahi Fresh supply issues leave everyone wanting more BY JOANNE FRIEDRICK W ith a South A m e r ic a n season that started late and ended early, those dealing in ma- himahi were up against the age-old problem of supply not keeping up with demand as the season wound down in March. As a result, most suppliers had to reallocate what they did get to satisfy their cus- tomer base. Mike Walsh, VP at Orca Bay Seafoods in Renton, Wash., says a price dispute between the fshermen and processors resulted in the late start to the season in the wa- ters of Ecuador and Peru. "Te boats always want more than the plants want to give," says Walsh. He notes that the fshermen, who re- ceived $2 a pound two to three years ago, but just $1.50 a pound last year, were hold- ing out for the higher price. "Tey settled somewhere in the middle," he says. Mahimahi is the third- best selling species for Orca Bay, which buys about 100 containers a year. Te fsh, also called dorado or dol- phinfsh, has the sweet, mild taste and faky texture that appeals to even fussy sea- food eaters, which makes it a mainstream item on many menus. Don Kelley, procurement manager for Western Edge Seafood in Washington, Pa., says mahimahi appeals be- cause it fts a niche for white- tablecloth restaurants as a valued fsh that comes in at under $10 a pound. "Te fresh fsh supply chain needs products under $10 that are higher-valued marine fsh," he says. Pollock and tilapia have their mar- kets, points out Kelley, but mahimahi competes more with tuna and scallops, both of which are above mahima- hi's price threshold. Like Walsh, Kelley says fresh mahimahi from South America has been harder to come by. Supply shortages were created when fshermen turned to other species when they couldn't get the price they wanted. "Te materials just dry up faster," he states. "Wherever they are in the processing, when the supply runs out they are fnished" even if the orders aren't flled. Western Edge received only 80 to 90 percent of what it ordered, forcing a reallocation of sup- plies among its customers. South America is the pri- mary source for fresh ma- himahi, with Ecuador and Peru providing 16.5 million pounds and 11.1 million pounds of U.S. imports in 2013. Te United States im- ported a total of more than 48 million pounds of both fresh and frozen mahimahi last year. Asian alternatives An alternative to South America for mahi is Viet- nam, says Kelley, which produces only frozen fsh that are smaller than South American product. "Te fresh wholesaler has to have a large, fresh, H&G fsh that is caught on a shorter-trip ves- sel," explains Kelley. Frozen product moves through a diferent supply chain. In 2013, U.S. imports of frozen mahimahi from Vietnam totaled 612,000 pounds. Although Asia has presented some quality prob- lems previously, there is a new level of sophistication among Vietnamese produc- ers "with higher expectations for quality than in the past," he says. Taiwan is another outlet, says Walsh, but the product is skin-on vs. skinless and comes in 50-pound packs. "We have several retail- ers that won't take Taiwan- ese fsh," says Walsh, who adds that Orca Bay does third-party testing so cus- tomers can ensure they are getting the product they Mahimahi is seen by menu planners as an upscale, yet affordable, white fsh. 22_24_Top Species_May.indd 22 4/16/14 9:34 AM

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