Tuna cost concerns
A further rise in skipjack tuna raw material prices is causing serious concern among canners.

Prices were expected to have begun to fall by now, but a scarcity of fish has pushed the Bangkok price to $900 a tonne, with forecasts up to $1,000 by month end.

“This situation has raised the issue of over-fishing,” said a source in Bangkok. Others blame El Niño sea current and temperature fluctuations. Importers anticipate an imminent announcement that duty will be reduced to 20.5% on product from Thailand and the Philippines. But EU sources insisted details were still to be agreed.

The trade expects the new duty to be in force by the end of April.

Pilchard pack price up
Namibia, the major source of pilchards for the UK market, has indicated new pack prices 15% higher than last year. However, with year-on-year sales declining in value terms, importers have vowed to fight hard not to raise retail price levels.

A slight swing away from the smaller cans to the 425g pack may be the reason for the drop in annual values.

In spite of the longer term trend, the last 12 weeks’ sales show an increase in volume sales of 7%. However, this reflects promotions rather than annual trend.

Imports from South Africa - historically the mainstay supplier of the UK market - remain limited due to growing domestic consumption.

Tomato yield hopeful
Sources in Naples report that negotiations between tomato growers and packers have been completed, and the trade can expect a pack similar to last season, subject to the weather.

One grower said: “The growers are contracted to supply a tonnage for another good pack. But unexpected weather damage could result in a drop, as there is very little flexibility in any of the key growing areas.”

Rumours of a carry-over are denied by packers, who point to growing demand in Europe, particularly new EU members.