Consumers can expect range in ahi prices, quality ahead of New Y - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Consumers can expect range in ahi prices, quality ahead of New Year's

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

It appears consumers could have a variety of quality and prices to choose from for their 2016 New Year’s ahi poke and sashimi if an adequate supply of tuna continues to be landed this week on Oahu, according to fish auction officials.

Fish wholesalers and retailers were busy buying up the first ahi of the week landed at the Honolulu Fish Auction early Monday morning in advance of Friday’s New Year celebrations.

“We started the auction earlier at 4 a.m.,” said Brooks Takenaka, manager of the United Fishing Agency which operates the live daily auction. “It’s that time of year,” he continued.

Some 111,000 pounds of fish were landed overnight, which is a bit less than what Takenaka had hoped for at the start of New Year’s week, but it’s still on par with what fishermen are landing.  The catch includes a variety of fish species though, including the four main ahi species: bigeye, which is the target catch in Hawaii, but also yellowfin, albacore (tombo) and skipjack (aku). That variety of ahi and varied grades translate to more options for consumers.

But what consumers will end up paying for that ahi is hard to pinpoint, Takenaka said, since each retailer sets his price based on his cost; the yield after the head, tail and bones are removed; the quality and grade of the fish and the demand of his shoppers.  

In talking with some of the fish buyers Monday, it’s fair to say they believe a ballpark range for consumers, depending on if poke or sashimi -- higher grade -- prices might range from $10 per pound to more than $30 per pound for premium grade.

The price per pound seen Monday morning on some of the bigeye ranged roughly from around $4 per pound to $12.50 per pound for a 164-pound premium grade ahi purchased by Tamashiro Market.

Once the fish is cut and depending on Tamashiro Market’s consumer demand and profit margin, that particular ahi could cost roughly triple that value, at around $25 or more per pound.

“It’s like the stock market,” said Cliff Yamauchi of Garden Valley Isle Seafood.  In addition to ahi for local consumption, GVI also purchased one ahi for export to a Chicago wholesaler for $5.50 per pound for a 99-pound bigeye.  Ahi purchased for export is yet another factor in the economics of ahi price setting, supply and demand.

One fish buyer, who wished to remain anonymous, said he bought about 400 pounds of fish Monday, and spent about $2,000 to $3,000. He said at his shop, prices for premium sashimi are currently around $25 per pound and he hopes that the supply this week will help keep it in that price range for his consumers.

Ahi Assasins' Josh Schade says he's buying bigeye ahi somewhere in the $6 to $8 range for his sashimi platter, which translates to a retail price at about $18 to $25 per pound.

That’s about “right on,” he said, for ahi prices this time of year.

“That's a pretty good deal,” he said. “I've seen it go as high as $35 to $40 but we've got a pretty good supply right now, but as long as there are a few more boats coming in the next few days, it really depends on them, that controls the price.”

Takenaka noted that on the supply side of this story, fishermen are facing more difficult El Nino created weather conditions in order to get their catches, such as high surf and stormy seas -- something that could impact supply now and in the future.

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