Fish producers on the hook for Brexit and fuel costs

Wholesale fish prices have increased almost 11% in the past year

It may well transpire, as some Irish economists believe, that inflation is at or near its peak, but the latest wholesale price index from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), published this week, still made for sobering reading.

Among the most eye-catching numbers in the release was the 10.9 per cent increase in the prices that retailers and other intermediaries have been paying for fish since July 2021. Fish producers’ groups say two main factors have conspired to increase the cost of bringing their catch to market. For one, marine fuel prices have, like auto diesel and petrol prices, skyrocketed in the past year, first because of the post-Covid rebound in oil demand and more recently as a consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Coupled with that, fresh quotas introduced as part of the Brexit Co-operation Agreement last year mean Irish fishermen and women are catching and supplying fewer fish to their customers, sending prices up.

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So far, consumers have got off relatively lightly. The CSO’s July consumer price index indicates that fish and fish product prices have climbed about 5.4 per cent in the year to the end of last month, about half the rate of increase with which retailers have been grappling. Fish Farmer Magazine reported this week that pan-European Iceland Seafood Group, which owns Irish salmon company Carr & Sons, “pinpointed” soaring salmon and fish prices as the main reason for slumping to a €2.9 million loss in the first half. However, it said salmon prices, in particular, have levelled off somewhat and there may be some relief on the way.

In recent months, the European Commission has given member states elbow room to offer fuel subsidies to fish producers without fear of breaching EU state aid rules. But the industry here is baffled as to why the Government hasn’t followed its Spanish and French counterparts in doing this. And with more reductions in the State’s fish quota in the offing over the coming years, the sector was already entering choppy waters.