Yule pay more for your prawns
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.
Festive favourites: Paul Pin with some Sealanes’ prized produce.