At Rungis, the price of salmon fillet has skyrocketed, especially since April. In question, both the price of food used by salmon farmers but also a high mortality above normal in farms and frozen stocks at their lowest.
Heard in the canteen, in the mouth of the cook: “We should have served you salmon skewers, but it will be a mix with monkfish. The salmon was really too expensive.” When, at Sodexo, we come to prefer to serve a wild fish appreciated by gourmets rather than a standardized product from aquaculture farms, it means that the situation is serious.
In fact, at Rungis, sliced fresh salmon was displayed last week on average at 20 euros per kilo (excluding tax). A year earlier, the same quality sold for just over 10 euros. How did we get here? Looking at the curve of its price on the main wholesale market in France, we see that prices began to rise at the start of the year before soaring in April. In three months, the price per kilo has increased by almost 45%.
Frozen food stocks at 20-year low
Specializing in monitoring the prices of raw food materials, the company Mintec explains this sudden surge by the combination of several factors: the high cost of the food used by salmon farmers, which has led to undernutrition in certain production regions, higher than normal mortality which encourages farms to harvest salmon early, reducing the proportion of larger specimens (over 5 kilos) and the low level of frozen stocks in Norway which would be at levels not seen for almost two decades .
But this justification does not explain everything. As proof, the Norwegian Nowi, world number one in farmed salmon, announced to its shareholders that in the first quarter, its operating profit had reached an exceptional level: 206.7 million euros. Almost twice as much as a year ago. And in its statement, Mowi welcomed “soaring salmon prices in all markets due to a continued increase in global demand for salmon combined with weak supply.”
The French smoked salmon industry worries
Soaring prices are worrying the smoked salmon industry. In France, it generates just over 700 million euros in turnover and represents more than 3,000 employees.
“We are waiting for valuable help from the public authorities to convince distributors to pass on the increases during new trade negotiations. The survival of our sector depends on it”, assures Jacques Trottier, president of the smoked salmon group at the ETF union, which represents the fresh catering companies.
In catering, the impact on prices is already well and truly perceptible. Especially in restaurants specializing in sushi, which the French love. They consume the most salmon in Europe and salmon is the fish most used by the major French chains. In recent months, amateurs have noticed that the boxes they order online are costing them more and more.
Prices falling before the end of the summer?
In order not to put off their customers with prohibitive prices, some chains even resort to the well-known technique of “shrinklation”. Preparers are instructed to reduce the size of the piece of salmon covering each bite of rice.
If the Norwegian Mowi wants to believe in maintaining prices at the current level, some experts are skeptical. Thus Ibi Idoniboye, analyst at Mintec, who does not hesitate to qualify them as “unsustainable, in a period when the power of consumers has considerably diminished”. His prognosis? Demand will fall and prices will therefore fall by the end of the summer.