Last week I heard a chef say "lobster's cheaper than chicken," which got Short Order wondering about Lobsternomics, the study of the lobster economy as it relates to fishermen, wholesalers and restaurants in South Florida. We'll be delving into the issue more thoroughly.
Today, meet Carlos and his wife Lilian Berdeal from Carlos Seafood, Inc. They own and operate facilities to pack and process one to 3 million pounds of lobster a year, according to their website.
Here's what they had to say about business these days...
Carlos speaks Spanish, this is a translation of a phone interview:
"The price has gone down a lot, consumption is just not there, we're talking about the market in the U.S. and Europe. We're talking about producers from Brazil and the Bahamas and Cuba suffering too.
Europe is just not buying. Restaurants put on the menu that it's for sale at market price, so that has an effect also. People automatically think 'expensive' when they see that. You know how it is with the economy. It's the same with meat, everything's falling. We're just trying to survive.
We're one of the biggest producers of Florida spiny lobster, which is just another name for Caribbean lobster, it isn't found only here. Florida is probably about 9th or 10th out of everybody harvesting it. There's also Brazil, the Bahamas, Nicaragua, Cuba. Cuba has a big continental shell with a lot of lobster, and they're hurting big time, that's one of their major exports."
Carlos' wife Lilian says:
"I been here 33 years, sitting at this same desk, I'm bored, it's horrible.
As far as the lobsters go it's just that the demand's not there for them, not since
last year, last year everything just started going down the drain. At one time we
were payin $19 a pound for tails and then it dropped all of a sudden. By the time we
realized it, the inventory we had bought for $19 we had to sell for $12.
We had inventory for
bought for $7, and now we're offering it for $4.50.
The economy is bad everywhere not just the
cant afford to pay right now either.
Nobody is programmed to think that lobsters are cheap.Everybody knows them as expensive, as something they can't afford.
Right now everybody's gotta suffer and see if they can get through this
year and see what happens next.
We don't get any help from the government. The fishermen
don't get any help from the government like the farmers do.
Those storms that hit last year messed up a lot of traps and a lot of gear. The house, that's us, can't help the fishermen because we have all this inventory we couldn't sell.
The government doesn't give us any loan. We're not looking for a bailout. That would be nice, but for now we're just trying to survive."