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COVID-19 recap, April 21: China economic slump; Argentina woes; Canada sets NL snow crab TAC, but not season start date – Undercurrent News

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues to upend the global seafood trade, reducing foodservice demand and complicating supply chains. If you have any stories on how your company is dealing with the crisis, message us here. Here’s a recap of pandemic-related seafood news from Monday, April 20:

Desperate shrimp farmers around the world have to hope that China’s economy can recover strongly after an unthinkable 6.8% slump in the first quarter of the year, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Matt Craze reported.

Restaurants and canteens in China have opened their doors again in March, but business so far has been feeble. The drop in economic activity in the first quarter of the year was the biggest since the Chinese government began reporting quarterly economic data in 1992.

In Argentina, which has seen sales of shrimp to China rocket in recent years, the spread of COVID-19 around the globe has caused a sharp drop in the exports of seafood products, which is in turn expected to have a significant impact on the country’s economy this year.

Argentinian trade group Intercamera de la Industria Pesquera de Argentina (IIPA) has indicated, in a presentation seen by Undercurrent News, that pandemic-related market closures in Europe and across the world have driven down the value and volume of the country’s fishing exports. The IIPA forecast that in an “optimistic scenario”, the country’s fisheries exports to certain key markets would drop by some 30% this year, possibly returning to levels last seen a decade ago.

The Argentine illex squid fishing season is still open, although fleets are operating at reduced capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It [the fishery] is still open. [But] it is not easy to take the vessel out to fish because of coronavirus,” Juan Redini, the president of the Argentinian chamber of shipowners and president of squid fishing firm Pesquera Buenavista, confirmed to Undercurrent.

He said 40 vessels are fishing out of a fleet of 70. Fishing was briefly suspended by government-enforced social distancing rules in March. It then restarted late that month after unions and industry agreed on protocols for vessels and ports, reported Merco Press, although the measures have slowed unloading catch at ports.

Argentina landed 79,000 metric tons of ilex squid in the first three-and-a-half months of this year, according to Agroindustria. February saw the biggest landings, of 43,000t. Unlike last year, catch in April this year has been relatively good, with 13,000t landed so far.

In Canada, the country’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has released its new total allowable catch limits for the snow crab fishing areas off the coast of the Newfoundland and Labrador province, granting an overall 10% increase to 29,551t in 2020, compared to the 26,894t permitted in 2019. However, due to coronavirus-related concerns, the new start dates have yet to be announced, with DFO declaring only that no snow crab fishing will begin before May 1. That’s weeks behind last year’s start dates of April 8-14.

Also in Newfoundland, Grieg Seafood said it plans to press on with its big salmon farming expansion plans in the province, despite the coronavirus situation. In the company’s annual report, CEO Andreas Kvame announced the firm would be putting investments on hold while much of Europe and North America are in lockdown, although he did not specify which ones.

In the UK, the latest data from Kantar shows the extent to which UK retail sales boomed under the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown period.

“With shoppers needing to cater for an additional 500m meals a week in the home we’ve seen a record month for the grocery market,” noted Nathan Ward, business unit director for meat, fish and poultry at Kantar.

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