Roe prices, volumes increase for salmon, herring; pollock stalls

Roe provides most of the value by far - but none goes to fishermen nor to the State of AK in landing taxes.

by | May 1, 2024

Filed Under Herring | Markets | Pollock | Prices | Salmon

Roe provides most of the fish value by farfor processors

The value of the roe for Alaska salmon, herring and pollock far exceeds the value of all other product forms, such as fillets, headed/gutted or canned. But none of the value is shared with fishermen – or in fish taxes paid to the State of Alaska.

“Roe makes up a larger portion of the total chum species value (39%) than for any other salmon species in Alaska. In 2023, Alaska keta (chum) roe wholesale prices averaged $23.75 per pound. It goes primarily to Japan.”
Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute Bulletin

(lw: AK fishermen in 2023 averaged $.49/lb for chum salmon)

Here’s a recent summary for 2024 so far By Tom Asakawa for SeafoodNews.com
May 1, 2024

Salmon roe

Sujiko Salted Salmon Roe (Sujiko is salmon eggs in the skeins)

Last year’s high prices of Sujiko salted salmon roe have been corrected considerably, with the price stabilizing at around 2,600 yen/kg ($16.57/kg) at the beginning of 2024. In March, the price was 2,660 yen ($16.96/kg or $37.39/lb), which was slightly lower than in February. In terms of quantity, 32 tons of Sujiko salted salmon roe was sold this year — an increase of 77.8% from last year.

Prices so far have been 25% lower than last year’s highs. Still, shortages have recently begun to be reported due to a decrease in supply last year. European trout roe and North American production, which will begin in May, is expected to be high-priced. There is also a possibility that prices will be revised upward again at some point.

Ikura Salmon Caviar (Ikura is individual salmon eggs)

Although manufacturing costs are not cheap, selling prices of Ikura Salmon Caviar have fallen recently. The low price is due to a sales increase of pink salmon ikura marinated in soy sauce, which is processed domestically with imported frozen roe. However, due to this drop in unit prices, sales have exceeded the previous year’s level for three consecutive months since the beginning of the year and continued to increase by 28.9% to 107 tons in March.

Cumulatively, sales volume has increased by 25.7% compared to a price drop of more than 20%, which is a good performance considering the off-season period. It is assumed that the flow of people have recovered after the end of the coronavirus pandemic, and demand from inbound tourists has picked up steam. Sales are expected to increase during the tourist season from April onwards.

Pollock roe

Salted Pollock Roe

The unit price of salted pollock roe has remained within the same range as the previous year. While the number of sales has also barely remained within the normal range, they are less than that of mentaiko spicy Pollock roe.

In March, the selling price was 1,839 yen/kg ($11.73/kg or $25.86/lb), an increase of only 0.7% from the previous year and almost unchanged from February. But the sales volume decreased by 5.45%. The same is true for the cumulative period from January to March. Although the unit price was close to 1,798 yen/kg ($11.47/kg or $25.28/lb), an increase of 0.2%, sales volume was still down 3.1% from the previous year.

Mentaiko Spicy Pollock Roe

Like salted Pollock roe, the unit price for the same raw material of mentaiko spicy pollock roe was the same as last year. However, unlike salted roe, mentaiko is increasing its sales volume.

Perhaps due to the difference in the strength of the products or the different demand for souvenirs from tourist destinations, the price rose by only 1.8% to 2,117 yen/kg ($13.51/kg or $29.78/lb) in March. Still, the sales volume increased significantly by 6.5% to 147 tons.

This was the first time since October 2023 that the monthly sales price has exceeded 2,100 yen/kg ($13.40/kg or $29.54/lb ). Still, since the beginning of the year, the unit price has remained the same as last year, and the cumulative quantity has increased by 7.7%, indicating remarkable growth. It is assumed that this is due to a recovery in the movement of people, including inbound tourists. 

Herring roe

Salt Herring Roe

Salted herring roe is said to be in the middle of the off-sales season after the year-end demand. For this reason, the sales volume is small, and the unit price varies depending on the item being sold, making it easy to see a difference between high and low prices. 

In March, unit prices were stable at the same level as last year, but the sales volume decreased by 8.3%, and the high-price small-sales trend continued. In January-March, the price increased by 11.7% to 3,227 yen/kg ($20.60/kg or $45.41/lb), but the sales volume decreased by 37.3%, while the lackluster sales remained unchanged.

Seasoned Herring Roe

The price of seasoned herring roe has risen sharply in recent years due to the high prices of raw materials. Still, the unit sales price was 4,427 yen/kg ($28.26/kg or $62.30/lb) — the second highest price after the previous highest of 4,663 yen/kg ($29.76/kg or $65.60/lb) in January — and the sales volume was just 4 tons.

Although 12 tons of seasoned herring roe was sold in the cumulative period from January to March, it is still a 20% decrease from last year. On the other hand, the unit sales price was 4,384 yen/kg ($27.98/kg or $61.68/lb), more than 50% higher from last year.

Read more about roe pricing here:

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.

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