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Today’s “Record Tuna Prices”, Still 50% Below 1980 Level

“Record European tuna prices” are actually around 50 percent lower than at the beginning of the industrial tuna fishing in 1980. As inflation in Spain has rocketed around 275 percent over this time, tuna prices have not followed the trend as dramatically. While skipjack value has seen a strong upsurge from 2000 to 2012, last year’s skipjack price rested at around 146 percent of what it was in 1980.



A similar trend is evident in the observation of yellowfin value over the years, with the growth rate of inflation significantly outperforming tuna price escalation. Nevertheless, skipjack and yellowfin prices are at record highs, at USD 1,700 and 2,650 respectively in Spain. Since 2008 it has appeared the market is becoming increasingly stable.

This data was presented at both the European Tuna Conference in Brussels in April and the Vigo Tuna Conference in September by Juan Corrales, Managing Director of Spanish tuna canner, Conservas Garavilla and owner of leading Spanish tuna brand, Isabel. He explained that the recent strong growth was due to a number of factors.

The stabilizing of tuna catch seemed to be the main factor driving the rise in prices. Corrales said: “In 1980 global tuna catch was approximately 1.5 million tons, and since then we could say that the total catch has been multiplied by three, in a growing pace until the last five years, when catches have been stabilized at approximately 4.5 million tons.” He explained that consistent catch numbers sustain a consistent market demand, meaning price remains stable at the recent high level.

Increasing costs was another contributing factor highlighted in Corrales’ presentation. “Probably the main cost in operating a fishing boat is fuel,” he said. “Petrol prices have been stable at a level of USD 20-25 per barrel until the first 2000’s, but have rocketed from there until the average level of USD 100 per barrel the last five years.” He indicated that a rise in costs for fishing companies has forced up the price of raw material tuna at sale.

Corrales stressed that increasing controls and regulations in oceans and the higher cost of fishing licenses have also fueled the rise in raw material skipjack and yellowfin tuna in recent years. Together with an increasing demand, which has been powered by a dramatic 50 percent global population growth to around 7 billion today, tuna price has grown. 

Corrales said: “But what drives the tuna demand is not only the total population, but the buying power, and we see the GDP (gross domestic product) per capita was almost stable for 20 years, and shows significant increase in the last ten years, where GDP per capita has been raised from approximately from USD 5000 to USD 8000 in 2010.”

He added: “Tuna is a very narrow market and slight increases in demand, together with a change on the path of raw material supply, have made a significant reaction in the last five years.”