The increase in fuel is largely weakening French fishermen. This is enough to raise fears of lasting increases in fish prices.
A salmon steak at 9 euros, a sea bream at 16 euros or a kilo of langoustine at more than 32 euros, … The prices displayed in this fishmonger’s in the 20th arrondissement of Paris, “no more expensive than elsewhere” specifies the shopkeeper, do not seem, at first sight, to dissuade the regulars.
“I come here quite regularlysays a customer. “Afterwards, I admit that I try to be careful because these prices show that fish has become a luxury product that we cannot consume every day.“.
In 2022, inflation has not finished making waves. In France, the rise in prices was generally 3.6% over one year in February, a first since 2008 according to INSEE. For fresh food products, we can thus note +2.2% for meat, +5.8% for vegetables, but above all +10.3% for fresh fish.
When the price of fuel makes sinners capsize
The rise in fuel prices, which reached +26.9% between February 2021 and February 2022, is at the heart of the problems encountered by the fishing world.
According to Pascal Le Floch, lecturer at the University of Brest, “fishermen are often on the front line of rising gas prices. Fuel represents 15% of turnover for trawlers. This can rise to 30-35% in the event of a massive fuel hike“.
While a 12-meter trawler consumes, on average, 800 liters of fuel per day, a liter of diesel at 1.30 euros at the pump thus raises the daily bill to … 1040 euros.
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According to the Norman Fishermen’s Organization (OPN), “it is necessary, in this case, to catch more than 2000 euros of fish in one day. It’s not impossible but you still have to keep in mind that if gasoline represents more than half of it, it may be too complicated for the crews. “. Located at 0.45 cents in January 2018, the average price of maritime fuel amounted, on March 11, 2022, to 1.30 euros. A rise in production costs which therefore naturally push up the price of products.
“Fuel did not wait for the Ukrainian conflict to experience a sharp increase. However, uncertainty has never been greater. In the case of Norman fishermen, the fuel pressure is still limited because the fish are abundant during the winter. However, when their numbers decrease in the spring, this could become unsustainable because wages change according to the volumes of fishing obtained. If we ever stay at the dock, nobody will be paidadds the OPN.
Allow the fisherman to better control prices
If a large number of French trawlers were immobilized at the quay – due to their inability to cope with an ever more massive and lasting increase in diesel – the price of fresh fish would then continue to rise. According to a report by France Agrimer, from a base of 100 in 2015, the price of fresh fish and shellfish rose, already in 2020, to a base of 123.5.
“The reopening of restaurants at the end of the confinements very strongly boosted the price of noble species. However, the offer is limited by directives of the European Union which seeks to fight against the overexploitation of maritime environments.according to Pascal le Floch. For example, in 2021, sole fishermen saw their fishing quotas reduced by 36%, greatly increasing the price of this fish on the stalls.
“The increase in the price of fish is not, however, limited to the post-health crisis catch-up effect or the uncertainties linked to Brexit. Fish prices also increase structurally because the massive and lasting arrival of new consumers naturally leads to significant price increasesadds Pascal Le Floch.
Fish has indeed become, over the years, a product more and more popular with the French. While the latter consumed 28.7 kg per year and per inhabitant in 1988, this number stands at 33.7 kg/year/inhabitant in 2020 (compared to 23.4 kg/year/inhabitant for the European average ).
“We are waiting for the government to implement emergency measures, such as blocking prices at the pump for trawlers. It is also necessary to start thinking about the possibility of indexing the price of fish to that of gasoline and to start structural reforms on the mechanisms for fixing the price of fish.concluded the OPN representative.
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