Yule pay more for your prawns

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - TREVOR PADDENBURG

WA seafood lovers are set to shell out up to $50 a kilo for prawns this Christ­mas as sup­ply pushes up prices.

Re­tail­ers ex­pect a fes­tive sea­son price jump of about $5 more than last year for Aus­tralian wild-caught prawns.

Tighter im­port con­trols and con­tin­u­ing fall­out from the dev­as­tat­ing white spot dis­ease that af­fected Queens­land farmed prawns last year have con­trib­uted to the sup­ply pres­sure, com­bined with a boom in ex­port de­mand for wild-caught prawns and a below-av­er­age WA catch in trop­i­cal north­ern wa­ters this sea­son — driv­ing prawn prices close to record highs.

But not ev­ery­one is charg­ing top dol­lar for seafood come the fes­tive sea­son, with savvy buy­ers urged to shop around to get the best deals and avoid the big­gest markups.

“Prawns are go­ing to be more ex­pen­sive this year than years gone past,” said Drew Martin, seafood man­ager at Sealanes, which sells di­rect to the pub­lic and sup­plies many of Perth’s restau­rants and seafood re­tail­ers.

“It’s not a prawn short­age, but what is here will be a lit­tle more ex­pen­sive – up to the $50 a kilo mark for your nice, large pre­mium prawns, though there will be some more bud­get grades avail­able in your smaller sizes.”

Mr Martin said oys­ters, mainly from South Aus­tralia, were also in “fairly short sup­ply” with fes­tive re­tail prices ex­pected to be about $22 a dozen.

And a bumper cray­fish sea­son is ex­pected, but prices are gov­erned by the ex­port mar­ket, mean­ing West Aus­tralians will still pay about $100 a kilo­gram at Christ­mas, Mr Martin said.

A spokesman for Cen­tral Seafoods, which sup­plies IGA and Farmer Jacks, said prawn prices were ris­ing, in part due to “light catches” from trawler fleets in WA and the Eastern States. The com­pany’s big­gest, pre­mium prawns are sell­ing for $140 for a 3kg box.

Fins Seafood owner John Cordin, who runs a South Perth shop and a dis­counted fac­tory-di­rect out­let, said savvy shop­pers could avoid shelling out top dol­lar.

“There’s al­ways talk of high prices at this time of year and it scares peo­ple away from prawns, but some of it is scare tac­tics. If you shop around you can avoid pay­ing big mar­gins,” he said.

He rec­om­mended buy­ing frozen prawns now to beat the Christ­mas rush. He said all prawns were snap frozen af­ter they were caught, then thawed by su­per­mar­kets or re­tail­ers.

Pic­ture: Daniel Wilkins

Fes­tive favourites: Paul Pin with some Sealanes’ prized pro­duce.

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