Salmon lovers are facing further price hikes as the impact of the Chilean salmon industry's collapse continues to send UK prices skywards.

The average price of salmon fillets in the big four has already risen 16.7% in the past year to £11.81/kg [The Grocer 33], and suppliers claim further increases are on the cards.

The price paid by exporters for Norwegian salmon reached £5.09/kg last month, an increase of 27% on the year before [NOS Clearing ASA]. The increase had been caused by lower available volumes coming through from Chile, the world's biggest supplier, following the outbreak of the salmon anaemia virus two years ago, said one supplier. The impact had not been felt last year because of the abundance of frozen salmon stocks still available to the US, one of the world's biggest salmon importers, at that stage.

However, the US had now turned to Europe and Norway in particular to source its salmon, with the result that supply was tightening and wholesale prices were going up, said the supplier. Exports of Scottish farmed salmon to the US increased by 50% during 2009 to 24,000 tonnes [SSPO].

"It is going to come through further in the retailer price in the next few months," said the source. "I'm certain there will be a dip in consumption. I hope that it is shortlived, but this increase in price is of such a scale I think there will be a number of consumers who no longer buy into salmon."

Retailers were now having to pay considerably more to guarantee supplies, claimed one buyer. "The supply and demand situation is at its all-time high since the 2005 dioxin scare," said the source, adding that it was proving challenging for supermarkets to keep the price competitive.

Shoppers were fickle and would switch to other fish if salmon became too expensive, warned fish consultant at Callander McDowell, Martin Jaffa. "It is price-sensitive, and people won't buy it if it gets too expensive."