Thursday, June 27, 2013

Yucatán lobstermen face declining demand, hard times

Consumers can't afford the delicacy

Puerto Progreso, Mexico
Mérida, Yucatán -
Mexico's lobster season begins next Monday, but it looks to be another challenging year for local harvesters on the Gulf and Caribbean coasts, according to Combamar, a Mexican customs broker and export agent which sells shellfish and other seafood products to commercial buyers worldwide.

Peninsular fisherman think that they can catch about 500 tons (one million pounds) of lobster this season, which runs from July 1 to March 1. But Combamar officials say such a yield will greatly exceed their demand for the product.

"The picture isn't pretty, and it's no surprise to anybody," said a company spokesman. "There aren't any European buyers to speak of, and the main Spanish importer, a company called Pescanova, just declared bankruptcy. Really, we don't have any customers at all for lobster."

Despite such a poor market, local fisherman have decided to charge 400 pesos per kilo, a price which Combamar said is entirely unrealistic. At today's exchange rate of 13 pesos to the dollar, that's about $15.40 per pound - wholesale.

"There's no way," said the spokesman. "In 2012, lobster was 360 pesos per kilo, and still it was a very difficult time. There were few customers then, and there are even less this year. Our European clients are suffering through a very difficult economic crisis, and lobster is one of those luxuries on indefinite stand-by. In a normal year, our customers would be here, ready to deal. But not this year."

In better times, both lobster and octopus were common on the plates of prosperous Europeans, and Yucatán harvests found ready markets in Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom. But those days have passed. U.S. lobster demand is also very anemic.

Peninsular fisherman have spirited competition far away, too. Two years ago, Mexican-harvested octopus fetched a record 100 pesos per kilo on world markets. But abundant catches in African waters have collapsed prices to about $1.70 per kilo - a mere 22 pesos.

The Combamar official said his company didn't plan to carry lobster at all this year. "We're not going to buy it at any price. It's better just to leave the warehouses empty. There's so much uncertainty, so much risk in the market these days."

The losers, of course, will be fisherman up and down the Yucatán coast, whose commercial season is just about to begin. One popular lobster spot is off Holbox island in Quintana Roo state, just north of Cancún.

The southeast coast of Mexico pales in comparison to Pacific waters when it comes to lobster yields. A study done by the Mexican fishery department more than 20 years ago (1989-1990) found that red lobster catches along the Baja California peninsula were 22 times great than those in the Gulf region.

Yucatán tourism remained flat in first quarter of 2013
Banixco raises storm flag warning on Mexican economy
59% of Mexicans remain trapped in underclass

Holbox may look no more lively than this during the upcoming lobster season

© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

No comments:

Post a Comment