September 17, 2020

Hugh’s Take — The 2020 challenge continues

Pandemic Shift

This has been s a unique and challenging year here in Stonington, Maine. COVID had a major impact to the start of the season. An oversupply of inventories being held for Chinese New Year flooded the domestic market with festivities cancelled and international freight and shipping to China all but stopped. There was a lot of lobster and not a lot of people buying. Restaurants were closed. Cruise ships were docked. The traditional buyers of Maine lobster were not in business for the summer. Then, to everyone’s surprise, a new market emerged and the summer brought a flurry of lobster consumption in the US through direct-to-consumer sales online and in grocery stores. People had not had a night out in months and lobster seemed to be the ‘home treat’ of choice. And when people did start to go out, New England style lobster shacks across the country were the ideal setting for an outdoor meal. Lobster rolls are a good ‘take-out’ option and a classic summer meal, and the demand has been there despite the challenges.


Limited Supply

This fall there seems to be a perfect storm brewing with limited supply and growing demand. There is uneasiness about the potential for the yearly catch. The ‘September Slump’ is typical and expected, but this month we have seen some of the worst fishing in decades. It is not uncommon to have very strong fishing in August and weak fishing in September, but this year it is more pronounced than it has been in the past. That coupled with revival of demand in the Europe and China markets, we are now paying a higher boat price at the docks and will need to raise our prices for our live and processed lobster.

Prices going up

You will see price increases across the industry and we will remain competitive with that pricing, for our boats and our customers. We are hoping the lobsters are late this year like they have been in the past. And that the heavy winds and big tides will stir things up and give our guys the hauls they need to salvage the season. But there have been seasons where they don’t show up at all. If that happens, we are all going to have to take a step back and figure out what to do.

For now, prices are up and that trend will continue until the lobsters hit.