Cod prices set for the season

Published on May 21, 2014
Filletting a cod in Port de Grave
Photo by Terry Roberts/The Compass

A cod price agreement between FFAW-Unifor and Icewater Seafoods in Arnold’s Cove for 2014-15 cod season has been confirmed by the province’s Standing Fish Price-Setting Panel.

Prices for cod will be 80 cents for premium quality, 40 cents for Grade B and 20 cents for Grade C. This compares with a straight price of 50 cents a pound in 2013.

A news release notes that the agreement is based on quality grading, with a significant premium for top quality fish. It also addresses a problem fishermen in the 3Ps fishing zone (along the province’s south coast) encountered last year with a lack of a market for several months.

Grading will be done in the plant. The union will be hiring its own personnel to check on grading on behalf of harvesters.

“The essence of this agreement is to increase the value of our fish,” said FFAW-Unifor President Earle McCurdy. “There’s no cross-subsidization between grades in this program. The prices for the different grades are tied to the relative market returns of different grades of fish.”

McCurdy said under the “tal qual” or straight price in effect in recent years, there was no reward for harvesters who maximize the quality of their landings.

In light of the implementation of quality grading, Icewater has advised the union that it is prepared to buy cod in 3Ps in the fall, although the company has the right to cease buying if they run into persistent quality problems. Last year Icewater did not buy 3Ps cod from late July until mid-November.

“This agreement highlights the importance of premium quality in today’s market,” McCurdy said. “The world is awash with cod, and our competitors in Iceland and Norway are delivering excellent quality product to the market. We have to do likewise if we are going to survive in the cod market.”

The reason for the significant gap in prices between premium grade and lower grades is the significant decline that has taken place in the cod block market, where cheap substitutes like tilapia and pollock, as well as cheap double-frozen cod blocks from China have seriously eroded the market.

Icewater Seafoods was the only processor in the province to respond to the FFAW’s notice to negotiate cod prices.

The panel’s decision to confirm the agreement between Icewater and FFAW means that this agreement is binding on all cod buyers in the province.