Whitebait back to ‘gold-plated’ prices
If you thought salmon was expensive, think again – at almost $140 a kilogram, this whitebait blows the much larger fish out of the water.
On a recent trip to New World in Porirua, William Corbett was stopped in his tracks by a small sign advertising the whitebait for $139.90 a kilogram. ‘‘It really surprised me, so I took a photo,’’ he said. ‘‘At least they had the guts to display it as a cost per kilo instead of the usual trick of showing expensive items as a cost per 100 grams.’’
Corbett said the containers appeared full and he questioned who could afford the high price and what would be done with any unsold fish.
It is not the first time prices have been so high. In 2009, whitebait was ‘‘snapped up’’ at $130 a kilogram.
In 2010, it was predicted that whitebait could reach $140 a kilogram, a level seen a few years earlier when bad weather hampered supply.
Antoinette Laird, spokeswoman for Foodstuffs, which owns New World, said whitebait was sold in a handful of stores and the average customer bought about 200g.
Wholesale prices for West Coast whitebait range between $60 and $70 a kilo but retail prices vary.
At Takitimu Seafoods, a 200g container costs $25 or $125/kg, while 500g of frozen West Coast whitebait from Solander Gourmet Seafoods is priced at $69.90, bringing it in at 10 cents a kilo cheaper than New
World Porirua’s fresh offering.
Jason James, from Christchurch whitebait supplier The Mainland Trader, said he sold frozen whitebait in 250g and 500g packs, with a minimum purchase of 2kg.
‘‘We have fixed prices for the whole year of $96 a kilo for eight 250g packs and $88 a kilo for four 500g packs, plus shipping,’’ he said.
‘‘When you see $139 a kilo, that is based on someone like your granny ... buying 100g at a time to make a few fritters.’’ James said 250g made seven fritters ‘‘with plenty of whitebait in them’’, so 100g should produce three of a similar standard.
‘‘If that is all you want, you would probably be happy to pay $14.’’
According to the Department of Conservation (DOC), several species of native whitebait are in decline, with four classed as at-risk or threatened with extinction.
The management of whitebait is currently under review and DOC received 11,000 submissions on its consultation document.
Proposed changes include designated safe havens for whitebait to spawn, a shorter whitebait season and the phasing out of whitebait exports and large-volume catch nets.
There are no plans to introduce a licensing system or ban the commercial sale of whitebait within New Zealand. In the meantime, there are no catch limits for whitebait but fishermen are encouraged to keep their catch small and to take only what they need.
Whitebait for sale at an eye-watering $139.90 a kilogram in a Wellington supermarket.