Demystifying the Economy | Are fish wholesalers lining their pockets?

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Posted at 4:00 p.m

Nathaelle Morissette

Nathaelle Morissette
The press

Where are the fish wholesalers’ huge profits going? Or the difference between the price paid to fishermen and the price asked by consumers, for things like crab and lobster?

Lucette Durand

“It’s never easy to say who is reaping the profits,” replies Jean Côté, biologist and scientific director of the Association of Professional Fishermen of Southern Gaspésie. There are instances when there are no “staggering gains,” he points out.

For example, Mr. Côté recalls that at the start of the lobster fishing season, the fisherman was being paid $8 per pound for his catch and his advertised price at the supermarket was $8.77.

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

“I’m not in the secret of the gods. I don’t know the margins of all the middlemen in the supply chain, he admits. But there is a bias in this question. The wholesalers are believed to be making huge profits. But wholesalers don’t always handle fish and seafood, there are fishermen who sell directly to restaurants or processors. »

Yes, there are wins along the chain, which is normal. Are there really some links that stick in the pockets more than others? We don’t have the data to respond to this.

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

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

In particular, he recalls the explosion in container prices. Before the pandemic, Mr. Fortier paid $7,000 to $8,000 for a reefer container. Today he has to shell out 30,000 US dollars.

price difference

Why is there a price difference between what the fisherman pays and what is on display at the fishmonger and grocery store? “That’s because there are multiple intermediaries that bear their operating costs at each stage,” points out Mr. Bourgault-Faucher.

The fisherman has to maintain his boat and pay his fishing helpers. Fabricators also have to pay their employees, maintain their building and pay fixed costs. And then there are the shipping costs.

supply and demand

Supply and demand obviously play a role, as in the case of the snow crab, which peaked in price at the start of the season beginning in March. The press reported that the first arrivals sold for more than $38 a pound for cooked crab in Montreal, compared to $26 last year.

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

Inflation, the price of fuel and the lack of crabs from Russia, a major exporter, have affected the price paid by amateurs.

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