Chilean salmon suppliers are beginning to see early signs of recovery in the US foodservice sector as states and counties begin to emerge from coronavirus lockdown restrictions to varying degrees.
Where restaurants and some tourist attractions are starting to reopen, diners can expect to face strict social distancing measures with capacities running at a maximum of 50 percent, depending on state policy.
In Mississippi, for example, after the state’s stay-at-home order expired on April 27, restaurants were allowed to serve some customers beginning on May 7, but plans for a wider reopening of businesses were shelved after the state saw its largest single-day increase in reported cases and deaths.
By contrast, New Jersey has allowed limited reopenings for certain businesses and sectors, but the state remains largely under lockdown measures.
Florida allowed limited openings for restaurants and stores in most counties beginning on May 4. The last two remaining counties shut down in the Sunshine State began reopening on May 18.
"As restaurants start to open we are seeing our customers coming back and ordering," Camanchaca US CEO Cesar Lago told IntraFish. "It's still too early but we are seeing very positive signs."
At the same time restaurants have been able to bolster their delivery and pick up services.
With D-Trim salmon selling for around $3.60 per pound (FOB Miami airport), down 40 percent from the $5 levels seen before the crisis became reality, retail demand remains "robust."
The combination of lower prices, nationwide in-store promotional campaigns added to gaps in supply of meat and poultry have helped stoke interest in salmon among consumers.
At these levels Lago said salmon has been "flying off the shelves."
"Salmon is getting into more people's mouths and I think the long term of this is going to be [higher] consumption of salmon," he said.
Despite double-digit increases in retail salmon sales it has not been enough to offset lost business from the foodservice sector.
All the same, BluGlacier CEO Sebastian Goycoolea said Chilean suppliers are sending roughly as much as they were before lockdowns came into force and it would be difficult to ship more given the social distancing and health and safety restrictions suppliers are operating under.
"Hopefully we can see something a little bit above $4 when we start seeing some recovery," Goycoolea said.
"We expect any improvement in demand will help prices to to up a little bit."
While Blumar and Camanchaca report salmon getting through to US markets without a hitch they don't expect cargo services to the United States from Chile to be affected by the announcement this week that LATAM Airlines Group and its affiliates in Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and the United States have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The development coming with the carrying struggling against what it said is "the biggest crisis in aviation history."