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Less Skipjack To Bangkok, Imports Other Species Up Thailand, January 17, 13

The Thai tuna industry faced a hefty 19% drop in its skipjack tuna supply last year, but its imports of both raw albacore and yellowfin tuna spiked to four-year record highs.

In 2012, Thailand imported about 52,000 tons of whole round albacore and roughly 115,000 tons of whole round yellowfin, up 21% and 29% respectively from the previous year. At the same time, shortages and high prices for skipjack raw material reduced Thailand’s import of the essential canning ingredient by 19% to hit about 514,000 tons.

The nation, which is the largest tuna producer in the world, doesn’t have it’s own fleet of purse seiners so it depends on major tuna fishing nations such as Taiwan, the U.S., Korea and Japan for its supply.

The Taiwanese fleet is the top supplier to Thai processors in all three categories. It significantly boosted Thailand’s imports of raw albacore and yellowfin in 2012, shipping 18,400 tons of albacore and 25,300 tons of yellowfin – increases of about 50% and 60% from 2011. Its skipjack volume, however, dropped by about 15% to hit 109,000 tons.

The U.S. is also an important yellowfin and skipjack supplier for Thailand, shipping about 16,500 tons of yellowfin (up 55% from 2011) and 69,500 tons of skipjack (down 38% from the previous year) in 2012.

In terms of Thailand’s albacore supply, China more than doubled its volume from 2011, delivering 2,400 tons last year and making it a fleet to watch. It follows Japan (13,200 tons), Vanuatu (4,700 tons) and ties Fiji

Overall, Thailand’s reduced skipjack supply affected its tuna output in 2012, or at least to the U.S., its top market.

Since data for Thailand’s total canned tuna exports for 2012 is not yet available to, it is hard determine how the changes in the volumes per species have influenced Thailand’s exports to other countries. The 2012 catch figures from the Western Central Pacific Ocean are also not yet available, making it hard to determine if the lower supply to Bangkok was the result of lower catches and therefore lower availability of raw material, or the result of lower demand from its main markets such as the USA. We hope to report on this later.