Alaska pollock: with strong global demand, US production increased in 2021


October 6, 2021

Alaska pollock. NMFS photo.

Alaska’s pollock fleet benefited from an increase in production as bottlenecks in delivery, processing, shipping and distribution opened earlier this year. However, in addition to competition from surimi produced elsewhere in the world, consumer demand for other pollock products will determine production in the coming year.

Like many other industries in the United States, the labor component has hampered almost every facet of the industry. In the third quarter of this year, latent labor shortages persisted, but surimi production appeared to be increasing.

Pollock surimi production until August 15, 2020 was 124,031 metric tonnes and until August 21, 2021 it was 152,087 metric tonnes. In the second quarter of this year, production of 32,804 metric tonnes more than doubled the 14,912 metric tonnes of 2020.

According to Craig Morris, CEO of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers in Seattle, several factors are at play for the 2021 season.

“With the production of surimi blocks being less labor intensive and the younger age class fish working well in the production of surimi blocks – and having this strong global demand for blocks of surimi – this makes the decision to switch to the production of surimi blocks very logical, ”he says. .

Japan remains the primary export market for surimi produced in the United States. The most recent historical information suggests that Japan takes about 37% of Alaska’s surimi, with South Korea coming in behind at around 33%.

As the impact of the covid-19 pandemic intensified in the second quarter of 2020, exports to Japan increased from 49,369 metric tonnes in 2019 to 38,821 metric tonnes, and have since recovered slightly to 39,791 metric tonnes for the second quarter of 2021.

As for the health of the surimi market for the coming year, multiple factors come into play.

“Looking at 2020 versus 2019, we know that frozen seafood and especially products made from wild Alaskan pollock PBO blocks and deep skin fillet have enjoyed high demand,” because covid-related purchases have directed consumers to the frozen food aisles of grocery stores as well as drive-thru fast food restaurants, ”Morris explains.

“So, all other things being equal and assuming the age class of the fish returns more to historical levels – and the labor issues are addressed – I would be surprised if we didn’t see a change in. industry towards increased production of PBO netting blocks in the next year. “

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