Christmas prawn prices to be higher than ever
THE bad news is prawn prices are tipped to be high as ever this Christmas but the good news is fishing operators say there is little chance of running out.
Prawn industry veterans canvassed by the Bulletin this week say fans of the crustacean should expect to pay anywhere between $30 to $50 per kilogram for regular prawns.
Prices are not expected to dip below $30 per kilogram as they have in previous years.
Meanwhile, eastern king prawns could be as high as $60 a kilogram, dwarfing 2017 prices of around $40 per kilogram, considered pricey at the time.
Ballina Fisherman Co-Op CEO Phillip Hillard said he believed eastern king prawns could hit $60: "We will have adequate stock, but it is going to be expensive for Christmas."
Mr Hillard said the drought conditions on land impacted the prawn supply and size.
"There is no flow out of the rivers, which means there is not a lot of food in the sea to feed the prawns."
Mr Hillard said there was "less product out there" due to unkind weather impacting trawler days.
"If customers want prawns they will be able to get them, but it will not be best they can get. Customers will be looking at $30-$50 and topping out at $60 for large eastern king prawns. You will not find them below $30, like a couple of years ago."
A Gold Coast and Northern Rivers trawler owner Mario Pugleasy agreed poor weather along with a lack of new fisherman entering the industry and recent licensing reforms impacting the haul.
But Mr Pugleasy said: "There is no reason to fear. It still will be a good season, and it will not be as bad as some years," he said.
"Prices will be up, but we are not doing as bad as the farmers."
The white spot virus hit some prawn farms two years ago but Gold Coast Tiger Prawns technical director Alister Dick said he had invested in $600,000 filtration systems to renew his stock and was back in business.
"It is very good for customers. We've recovered and harvesting right now."
Pacifica owner Carmelo Comi, a wholesaler based on Gold Coast, said overall there was plenty of stock for Christmas, but customers might have to compromise on size.
"Since the prawn farms have improved, it has balanced out the prices and there is plenty go around," he said. "It is really is a win for customers. You might just struggle to get the big king prawns this year."
Gold Coast's Charis Seafoods marketing boss Salvie Vinaccia said Charis had seen a constant increase in customer demand across 20 years in business.
"But we never run out. We cannot rely on one or two people in the area for stock. We get our stock from over the border and up north. We have good contacts with fisherman who have been reliable."