King crab grabs some regal prices

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Norwegian king crab, once viewed as a problem in northern waters, is suddenly commanding record-high prices. A single crab can give a trapper more than a thousand kroner, while consumers have to pay much, much more.

King crab was once viewed as a problem when it started moving into Norway from Russian waters several years ago. Now it’s a highly lucrative part of Norway’s seafood industry, which ranks second only to oil. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

Fish counters in Oslo have recently been charging as much as NOK 1,300 per kilo or higher. King crab has always been pricey, but never as expensive as lobster.

That’s changing now, especially as the Corona crisis eases. Restaurants have reopened both in Norway and around the world, and they’re competing for the best crabs. At the same time, wholesalers think Norwegians stuck at home and unable to travel started spending more of their money on good food in their own kitchens. “They allow themselves something extra now,” Tom-Jørgen Gangsø, head of marketing for Norway’s seafood council (Sjomatrådet), told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

Trappers had already been getting at least NOK 200 per kilo over the past few years, for large crabs of top quality. During the past few months, though, prices have soared. Now the trappers are getting as much as NOK 350 a kilo, with retail prices after cooking, shipping and distribution three- to four times that.

The seafood council released figures this week showing that Norway exported 1,900 tons of king crab worth NOK 789 million during the first nine months of this year. The actual quantity of king crabs jumped by 36 percent, while its value skyrocketed by 71 percent, compared to the same period last year.

Much of the king crab is sent fresh and even live by air to Asia. Most of it, however, is cooked in saltwater and frozen, for both the domestic and international markets.

No other Norwegian seafood has seen price rises like the king crab. Ordinary crab, which is of the stone-hard category in Norwegian waters, only attracts around NOK 14 a kilo. Many think its meat is just good, but it’s harder to dig out, while the king crabs with much softer shells are easier to handle and provide more meat.

“Sometimes there’s no sense to the market,” said Bjørn Thomassen, who’s seen the price of crab rise by 600 percent since he started going after it. He told NRK that he thinks the demand for king crab is “incredible, but great for us.” After a few days of bad weather, he ventured out to empty his traps. When he delivered his catch in the northern city of Vardø, it yielded NOK 130,000 (just over USD 15,000).

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund