Lobster processors struggling too, association tells MLAs

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Lobster processors in Prince Edward Island are struggling as much as fishermen to stay afloat, the president of the P.E.I. Seafood Processors’ Association told a committee of MLAs Tuesday in Charlottetown.

Jeff Malloy, the president of the P.E.I. Seafood Processors’ Association, told a committee of MLAs Tuesday in Charlottetown that processors are struggling as well as lobster fishermen.

Jeff Malloy said processors have experienced very low profit margins over the last number of years, which is contributing to the lower prices for P.E.I. lobster.

“If processors face cash flow issues, it forces the processors to move the stuff more quickly and therefore forces the prices down in order to move it quickly.”

The standing committee on fisheries, transportation and rural development has been probing the issue of lobster prices and why P.E.I. fishermen have been getting record low prices for their catches despite the fact it remains a luxury item in restaurants. A number of P.E.I. fishermen have said they will not set their traps this year if the price per pound is $3, as it was last year.

Malloy said there are many rumours about the lobster processing industry, but he tried to shed light on the realities they face.

Workers are hard to find, and bringing in temporary foreign workers is expensive. Fuel prices and packaging costs have also gone up substantially, all of which is squeezing the bottom line for processors.

Malloy, who is also the general manager for the Acadian Fishermen’s Cooperative, says he can see the concerns from the perspective of both the fishermen and the processors, and both are struggling.

“I certainly know full well what the fishermen are experiencing with their high costs and certainly understand the prices that have had to be paid to them over the last few years has not helped the situation with the fishermen, but those things are happening to our processors too.”

Currently fishermen and processors in P.E.I. are taking part in closed-door discussions with a facilitator hired by the province to help the two groups come to some agreement on ideas that have been proposed to help the industry, including a lobster levy to raise money for marketing.

Malloy says he hopes the discussions will create a better understanding between the two sides of the industry about difficult realities facing all stakeholders, including processors.

“We certainly don’t expect government to come in and wave a magic wand and fix this, there’s a lot of players, there’s a lot of issues that affect the shore price, but I feel that through working together… we can help improve the bottom lines of each of the businesses.”

A two-day lobster summit with over 200 participants is scheduled to get underway in Halifax Wednesday. It will bring together fishermen, processors and industry experts to discuss the four key recommendations outlined in the Maritime Lobster Panel report released last Fall.

Organizations: Maritime Lobster Panel

Geographic location: P.E.I., Halifax

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