Our winter Catch-Up is available now, with seasonal updates on all the farmed and wild species of fish and shellfish, along with info on deli lines and the latest fishy news! Contact your account manager for your copy or read it here. Here’s an intro from Natalie Hudd, our Director of Sales:
I have been writing market reports for most of my 21 years working in the fish industry. Up until 2010, the main focus of these reports would be the seasons and the quality of the fish within those seasons – in addition to the prices we would typically expect to see at local auction. At this time, we also started to see an interest in alternative species when cod was under severe fishing pressure. Pollock was the new kid on the block and there was a lot of excitement about using this more sustainable species at that time. We started to see a surge in demand for more sustainable choices. Market reports started to include a focus around available alternatives to other species in addition to cod. The Marine Conservation Society rating system became our bible, and a week would not pass when someone didn’t need their menu auditing for how sustainable it was.
Roll on to the last ten years and market reports began to include a heavy focus on what salmon may or may not do in terms of cost. We started to see huge swings in price that caught out suppliers and customers alike. Infectious salmon anaemia was responsible for wiping out significant biomass, so we contemplated such factors in our price predictions. We similarly dealt with white spot disease in the farmed warm water prawn market which pushed up the prices. Then the BREXIT vote came and went, and suddenly the exchange rate became an important part of our forecasting each month. The environment was much more political and we saw our native fish prices rising on the back of buoyant export markets as the GBP weakened. Conversely, we started paying more for our imports due to weak exchange rates. An algae bloom was to blame for wiping out more salmon biomass in Norway, so we closely followed this in our monthly catch-ups to try and anticipate what the market would do.
Then came 2020 and a global pandemic on a scale that we will hopefully never see again in our lifetimes. I find myself writing a market report to cover December, January & February whilst we are continuing to try operating in a world of restrictions and lockdowns. This is combined with, at the time of writing, the prospect of leaving the EU without a deal on January the 1st 2021. The truth is that it was hard enough finding something to conclusively write about each month back in 2004 when it was a simpler time. When all anyone needed to know was whether the fish was in season and therefore great quality. When farmed fish was a sound choice that rarely fluctuated and therefore was not worthy of market report consideration. When we promoted sustainable species such as mackerel and mussels and encouraged diversification of species on menus. The truth is that we are fishmongers – not politicians, scientists, marine biologists, meteorologists or currency speculators. We simply don’t know what the next three months will bring, and we have never had so many factors to consider when predicting the fish market over the winter period.
We will, however, endeavour to guide you towards the right choices on your menus as we always do every quarter. We just ask you to consider that this market report is, more than ever before, a guesstimate of what might happen. We have no crystal ball and we have never had so many potential scenarios to consider over a single period in time. Please also be mindful that our stock levels are difficult to manage during periods of restriction. As always – and certainly over the festive period – please do offer us as much notice as possible of your requirements so that we have a good chance of fulfilling them.
At the end of the most difficult year that many of us are likely to ever see in our lifetimes, we want to reach out to each one of you to thank you for your loyalty and support. To all of our friends and colleagues who have sat at home furloughed and praying that they have jobs to come back to. To those on flexi-furlough who desperately try to fit their work into a short working week – work which doesn’t seem to reduce despite devastated trade that doesn’t support full-time staff. To those who have remained employed full time and never worked so hard to cover their colleagues despite decimated sales. With the possibility of a vaccine looking ever nearer, we cannot wait to return to a normal trading environment. How we long for your calls demanding your delivery earlier as your establishments are packed with customers and you have run out of fish. How we crave your emails asking us what specials we have available for the week. The hospitality industry has borne the brunt of the restrictions, but we should be heartened by the demand for our services in those times where restrictions were lifted. Customer confidence is high, and that is due in no small part to all the procedures and changes each one of you have implemented in response to the pandemic. We, as an industry, have proved we can be fleet of foot and are able to creatively adapt to changing circumstances.
If there is something we have learned this year, it’s that good health is key to everyone. With fish as a classically healthy protein, fill up your menus with fish dishes! Be it oily fish, white fish, shellfish, molluscs, or the broad variety of frozen fish we carry – there will be something in all these areas we can recommend over the next 3 months.
Wishing each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and, more than ever before, a most Prosperous New Year.