A study which examines the impact of COVID-19 on the Brown Crab supply chain has been released by EUMOFA

A study which examines the impact of COVID-19 on the Brown Crab supply chain has been released by EUMOFA

A study on the COVID-19 impact on the Brown Crab supply chain has been released by the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products (EUMOFA).
The study was aimed to provide an understanding of the brown crab (Cancer pagurus) supply chain and establish the status for the sector both prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also aims to give insight into how stakeholders in the nations that catch the most brown crab were affected by the COVID19 pandemic, and their course of action in dealing with the consequences.

The study is based on publicly available literature, research, news articles, and available data. Stakeholders in Norway, the UK, Ireland, and France were contacted and asked to contribute to the study.

The main data source for this study concerning catches of brown crab was the FAO, while data from EUMOFA (based on EUROSTAT and IHS Markit – Global Trade Atlas) and Statistics Norway were used when analysing the international trade flows.

Brown crab, also known as edible crab, is a benthic species that lives on a wide range of seafloors: sand, gravel, and rock, at depths of 6 to 100 metres. It is found in the Eastern Atlantic, from northern Morocco, extending along the Atlantic coast of Europe, to the British Isles and northern Norway.

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In 2019, the FAO reported a total global catch of 50.480 tonnes of brown crab. The majority of this (60%) was caught by the UK. Other major catching nations are Ireland, Norway, and France. Together these four nations have accounted for 94% of total catches since 2010. In terms of first sales, large parts of the edible crab industry consist of fishers selling catches to processors and exporters through temporary or long-term contracts. The brown crab may be sold live or processed into products ranging from boiled whole (sold chilled or frozen), crab meat, or other value-added products.

The COVID-19 pandemic represented a shock for the brown crab sector in 2020. The pandemic disrupted the supply chain, tested the robustness of the sector, and forced innovation. The effect of the pandemic hit stakeholders differently depending on their business model. Processors who had diversified sales to both retail and HoReCa were better equipped to keep up sales when one market disappeared, as opposed to those who only sold to the HoReCa sector. Many processors also had the advantage of being able to build inventory and postpone sales. The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic differed between nations. In the UK, many fishers refrained from fishing crab as prices were too low to cover costs. In addition, weather conditions caused a poor fishing season. On the other hand, Norwegian and French crab fishers were shielded from the full impact of COVID-19 as the largest Norwegian processor continued buying crab from fishers and demand during the peak season in France remained consistent.

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue of cadmium restrictions on live brown crab exported to China has been, and still is, affecting the sector. Market access has been reduced for all exporters, except for crab caught and exported from the Netherlands. Many stakeholders reported that exports to China would increase if the cadmium testing regime were eased.

The full report can be read here.

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EUMOFA study examines COVID-19 impact on Brown Crab supply chain

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