By Yereth Rosen
Alaska Beacon 

Feds buy Alaska seafood for national food programs


February 28, 2024

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will purchase about 50 million pounds of Alaska seafood to use in national food and nutrition-assistance programs, state officials said on Feb. 20.

The seafood purchase is to benefit needy children and adults and school lunches, said the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, which announced the department’s plans.

The purchases are authorized through a federal law which allows the Agriculture Department to buy surplus food products, and through the department’s Commodity Credit Corp., a government entity created to help stabilize agricultural income and prices.

In all, the Department of Agriculture has put bids on 1.4 million cases of canned pink salmon (24 cans per case), 300,000 cases of sockeye salmon and 15 million pounds of pollock fish sticks and fillets, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute said.

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It is a big purchase. In comparison, the USDA last year made purchases from Alaska of 3.7 million pounds of sockeye salmon, 47,000 cases of pink salmon and about 2.2 million pounds of pollock in combined transactions from May to July, according to ASMI. The USDA last year also bought $8 million worth of rockfish from Alaska and U.S. West Coast processors, according to AMSI.

The purchase is timely. Alaska’s industry is coping with a worldwide glut that has driven down prices and made sales much more difficult, ASMI Executive Director Jeremy Woodrow said in a presentation Feb. 20 at the Capitol in Juneau.

“Due to inflation, really globally, consumer demand for seafood is incredibly low right now and our inventories are historically high. We aren’t able to push as much product through, so you get that supply and demand crunch,” Woodrow said.

That leads to lower prices paid to fishers and processors, he said.

“We’re in an incredible economic crunch that we haven’t seen for decades right now, where we’re looking at severe economic impacts,” Woodrow added.

Earlier this month, Doug Vincent-Lang, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, told a conference of Southeast business, community and municipal government leaders: “I’ve never seen market conditions as bad as they are now.”

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization.


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