At RUB 219/kg, Mintec’s average price of Russian-caught Atlantic cod in January 2021 dipped by RUB 1.87/kg (-0.8%) m-o-m, and by RUB 14/kg (-5.9%) y-o-y. Prior to this, Russian cod prices sustained a three-month rally during Q4 2020, as low Barents Sea catch volumes and firm retail buying helped mitigate thin foodservice consumption, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, unseasonably weak deliveries to key export markets, including the UK and France, provide the current price backdrop. This is partly due to new social restrictions imposed to curb re-escalating infection rates. It also reflects tight frozen storage space, in addition to limited long-haul freight capacity.
Cod price potential remains unclear for H1 2021. Bullish expectations are based on the assumption that widespread vaccination programmes will bring the virus under control, spurring economic growth and cod demand from restaurants, hotels, and other foodservice vendors. Bearish observers expect minimal demand growth in the first half of the year, and also point towards a 20% increase in the total allowable catch (TAC) cod quota for 2021. With Atlantic cod stocks in good shape, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) has raised the TAC by almost 150,000 tonnes to 885,600 tonnes. While a sudden spike in supply could weigh heavily on prices, the main North Atlantic cod suppliers – mainly Norway and Russia – may decide to set catch limits below the TAC, to help preserve profitability margins.