Prawns to soar past $50 a kilo by Christmas
SEAFOOD lovers will be in for a rude shock this festive season, with pressure on adequate prawn supply resulting in soaring prices ahead of Christmas.
In Sydney, cooked tiger prawns will currently set you back about $45 a kilo - which is up $15 from this time last year, according to retailers.
According to Claudio's Seafoods wholesale buyer Andy Widjaja, that price will only continue to increase the closer we get to Christmas.
"It's up nearly 50 per cent on this time last year," Mr Widjaja told news.com.au.
"Tiger prawn numbers are down because they were wiped out in Queensland from the floods, and imported prawns have been banned because of so many chemicals.
"So I think people will be paying around $52 per kilo by Christmas. There's just not a lot of prawns, so it's looking like the worst in 30 years."
In Queensland and Victoria, consumers will be faced with a similar situation.
Queensland Seafood Marketers Association president Marshall Betzel told The Courier Mail that prawn supplies were "pretty tight" around the country, with the "double whammy" of booming Chinese demand for Australian wild-caught prawns and ongoing import restrictions was driving up prices.
"The overall message is don't leave it to the last minute to go shopping for seafood for Christmas," Mr Betzel said.
"The prudent buyer should be looking at buying prawns today. Prawns snap-frozen on the boat come up a treat when thawed out so you could be buying them and putting them in the freezer until Christmas to make sure you don't miss out."
Executive director of Seafood Industry Victoria, Johnathon Davey, also suggested that consumers should consider placing their Christmas orders early.
"The industry is experiencing some challenges with supply. There is less around than last year," Mr Davey told the Herald Sun.
The prawn market was thrown into chaos during the peak periods of Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year last year after an outbreak of white spot disease in southeast Queensland prawn farms led to the destruction of prawns worth more than $25 million.
Prices for large tiger and king prawns reached about $35/kg during the peak periods.
In February, then Federal Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce announced the ban on imported prawns after the discovery of the highly contagious white spot disease in six prawn farms across Queensland. It's believed our prawn supply became infected after fisherman used the imported frozen green prawns as bait.
At the time, the Australian Prawn Farmers' Association executive director Helen Jenkins said it was expected that the ban would have an impact on some food businesses outside seafood wholesalers.
"They did it for a good reason. We welcome the ban and hopefully it will clean up that industry," Ms Jenkins told news.com.au in February.
"Importers have been rorting the system and getting their products through, giving the wrong samples. The whole thing needs to be tidied up."
News.com.au has contacted Seafood Industry Australia and The Australian Prawn Farmers' Association for comment.