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Cheaper To Replace The Skipjack In The Can With Albacore Global, March 21, 13


Prices for albacore tuna have been declining sharply over the last year. It is not just Pacific albacore prices that have fallen from a high USD 3,600 per M/T in 2012 to as low as USD 2,550 due to the high level of catching effort by many new built Chinese mini-longliners. Also in the Atlantic prices for albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga) ,especially for the lower quality grades, have dropped dramatically.
At the same time, skipjack prices keep firming up with levels being quoted between USD 2,280 and USD 2,300 CFR Bangkok for 1,8 kg fish. Mature size yellowfin is being sold at levels higher than albacore, at USD 2,800 CFR Bangkok.

The low prices for albacore and the very high price levels for skipjack make it tempting for canners, who are delivering to markets where there is no strong legislation or clear law on the use of the species in a can of tuna, to consider to replace the skipjack in those cans with albacore. As long as the law allows any species in a can only labeled “tuna”, they are free to choose the cheapest option.

Although the albacore price per kg might be more expensive than skipjack, once the fish has been pre-cooked and cleaned the metrics start to look quite different. Depending on the size (1 to 5 kg) the yield on skipjack might be between 35 and 40% of clean meat coming from one skipjack. But once the larger albacore has gone through the same process the yield might be over 50%. This creates a certain cost advantage to replace the small skipjack with a larger albacore.

In case of yellowfin being used, and with the buyer having a strong preference for white colored meat, canners could also consider replacing baby yellowfin with albacore, as long as the market laws and customers specifications allow it.

The question remains: how such a switch will be experienced by the end consumers? Albacore meat tends to be much lighter, which can be experienced as a pro, but the texture of the meat is usually dryer and has a slightly different taste.

This is probably one of the first times in the last 2 decades that we have seen such a situation in which skipjack and albacore prices have come so close. Considering that skipjack prices are expected to be going up even higher within this year, it will be interesting to see how the albacore market will react.