US salmon prices jump as Chilean truck drivers’ strike enters sixth day


As the large strike involving hundreds of Chilean truck drivers enters its sixth day, US salmon spot prices are beginning to rise due to the supply disruption. Chile is the largest supplier of salmon to the US market. Spot prices for trim D prices have increased by £1/lb this week, according to some market sources.  "With the entire [Chilean] industry stopped, prices have risen sharply," Sebastian Goycoolea, CEO of BluGlacier, a US sales joint venture between Blumar and Productos del Mar Ventisqueros, told Undercurrent News on Tuesday, without providing any further comments on the current spot price level.

"Harvests have dropped and the plants are out of work as trucks with salmon can not get to the plants. There is less flow [of salmon being exported] since the roads from the south to Santiago are taken," another Chilean executive told Undercurrent on Tuesday, adding he was awaiting the Urner Barry price at 5 p.m. Santiago/Miami time to be published to see how much US prices had increased since last week.

A third executive, working for a global supplier, told Undercurrent that the Urner Barry index last Thursday saw prices rise by £0.20 per pound on trim-D fresh fillets, ranging from £3.20-£3.40/lb for 2-3lb fillets; £3.30-£3.50/lb for 3-4lb fillets; and £3.40-£3.60/lb for 4-5lb fillets. He added that on Aug.

28 prices for 4-5lb fillets had reached about £4.25/lb. A fourth source in the US, an executive at a salmon importer, pointed out his company was importing more Norwegian fish to compensate for the shortage of Chilean supply.

"No one knows when the situation will get back to normal in Chile," he said, adding that he was "unsure of the price from Chile as it's impossible to get fish at all". The Chilean situation might open opportunities for Norwegian and Scottish salmon producers to increase exports to the US. However, those are limited by limited airspace capacity.

"It's almost impossible to find airspace from Norway to the US. There is a limited amount of airspace so prices are going up. Norwegian trim-D fillets are going for around £6.50/lb, up from last week in the mid £5s," the latter source added.

Possible resolution?

Meanwhile, the situation does not appear to be improving.

"Latest reports say things are escalating in Chile. There is a very limited supply this week. Some might fly a few boxes from Puerto Montt, but that's it," the executive at the US importer added.

US salmon prices jump as Chilean truck drivers’ strike enters sixth day

Photo credit: 24 Horas

However, Arturo Clement, the president of the Chilean salmon industry association SalmonChile, told Undercurrent on Tuesday morning that he was hopeful an agreement between truck drivers and the government could be found at a meeting planned for today. Chilean government minister Victor Perez said that the government was "minutes away from reaching an agreement" with the truckers, but that "something happened between them and therefore they have maintained a strike that generates difficulties," 24 Horas reported on Monday. In the event of a shortage, he warned that "the government will use all the instruments to activate normality".

This means truckers risk being sent to prison. Before the strike began, Chilean salmon prices to the US had been dropping.

Strike situation in Chile

Truckers are striking as they want the Chilean government to put greater attention and resources to the country's southern region. This follows a high-profile shooting last month in the city of Araucania where a nine-year-old girl was injured. 

Over the past week, truckers have blocked some of the main highways and transportation infrastructure such as ports, preventing the supply of basic food to the population. A proposal for an agreement with the government to end the strike was rejected last weekend, DW reported. Salmon processing activity in southern Chile has been heavily affected by the strike, delaying shipments of the fresh product, which needs to be carried to airports to be then sent to the US.

Roadblocks have disrupted transport of fresh salmon to the Santiago Metropolitan Region and have started to affect exports to several markets, market sources said.

However, aquafeed imports into Chile have not been largely impacted as those shipments are made via sea.

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