Last night I heard comments at a small discussion group of shock over blue claw crab prices. The thing is, I’ve been a promoter of sustainable pricing for a long time. Only now are others coming on board with the concept.
Local sellers are increasing prices based on supply and demand, not because they’ve had an awakening over sustainable business models. Some examples:
The price of live #1 crabs in Port Norris, New Jersey was $68/dozen last weekend.
A bushel of cooked #2 crabs is sold for $220 across the bay at a Delaware facility.
This past week I recommended a retail price of $75 for a tray of 25 cooked, cleaned and chilled #2 crabs as part of a consultant project for a New Jersey seafood business plan. This is product is in testing but not currently available on the market here as far as I know.
Dock-to-table seafood ventures help solve a range of problems and a handful of risks for our community. This blog post focuses on only one: FOOD SECURITY.
What happens if any part of our food supply is significantly disrupted? We can only imagine the stress, panic and violence and possible starvation. Weather events, climate change, disease, sabotage as an act of war or terrorism, trade wars, political destabilization that leads to a loss of immigrant work force, loss of electric or fuel for transportation could all cause real hardship to our food supply chain.
Dock-to-table operations help by providing diversification, decentralization and localization to the food supply. Generally the dock-to-table seafood is a higher quality and less susceptible to the risks listed. In addition, the two seafood products that make up most of our local harvest – oysters and crabs – are deemed less susceptible to the risks and might even benefit from the long-term trends in climate change and rising tides.
Investors in dock-to-table seafood operation typically purchase a right to a share of the harvest or at least first refusal of that share in the event of a wholesale operation. Restaurant chains, for example, can control price and supply risk of seafood by contracting with a local dock-to-table cooperative in advance.
We will cover the many other benefits of dock-to-table seafood in other blog posts. Meanwhile, I am pleased to discuss the topic with anyone who may have interest as a career or as an investor.
On Sunday June 23, 2017 the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story that covered Money Island New Jersey. Nantuxent Corporation’s founder Tony Novak is interviewed along with other business owners and Downe Township mayor Bob Campbell. The article drew some harsh criticism from the scientific community in response to the mayor’s comment that sea level rise damage is “hogwash”.
Today The Wall Street Journal ran an article talking about the effects of consolidation on the U.S. agricultural industry. Today 75% of all farmland is controlled by the 12% largest farming corporations. The results are clear. Many of us were impacted by Michael Moore’s “Food Inc.”. Small farms can avoid those negative results but the ability of a small farm to reach minimum critical income (the article mentions $50,000 per year) to survive has become more and more difficult.
The same trend affects the seafood industry. Almost everyone recognizes that the monopolization of the harvesting and distribution system is not healthy for the overall economy. Yet it is very difficult for a small operator to reach a minimum level of profitability. In addition, existing firms do all they can to prevent competition from small competitors.
I’ve cited this issue before. Older larger firms do not welcome new startups like those we host. There are plenty of examples of this business tactic in history from fishing and seafood businesses around the country. our harvesters have been told that we’ll never be able to buy some licenses and that existing firms will take deliberate steps to prevent us from expanding, easing growing grounds, etc. One large operator even sent a message through two watermen that he intended to spend money to keep us out of the business. It’s a ridiculous strategy but one that is common in the industry nonetheless.
The untapped market demand for agriculture and fishery products exceeds any additional production we can collectively add. It will certainly take effort to expand these markets and that is where we need o focus our attention and resources.
Farm-to-table and dock-to-table businesses will be successful if consumers vote their support with their dollars. Investors come aboard with necessary funding when they see the direction of consumer preferences. It’s really that simple. If consumers care where their food comes from, want a personal connection with the producers, demand accountability for safety and environmental responsibility, then small producers have a bright future. It comes down to an effort to spread the word and sell the story of sustainable local food from small producers.
Small farms and fisheries still have a long way to go to reach the average consumer’s attention. The United States Department of Agriculture is already heavily involved in helping to spread the message that diversity in food production is healthy for America’s future. We’ll continue to do our best to continue to spread the message.
Today, on the five-year anniversary of superstorm Sandy, Baysave Corporation announces the release of the first public draft of the redevelopment plan for Money Island, New jersey. We wish to thank all those in government and private industry who played a role in bringing us to this point.