Friday, October 07, 2005

Is a ""market" a market?

But today - roughly 72 hours after Hurricane Rita roared ashore - is different. Today there is no market.

This line caught my eye today, even though the article is a little dated. The rub is that the shrimpers in the Gulf are reported to have no market. But the consumers hungry for wild Gulf shrimp are still there. So, what's the deal?

The deal is that fishermen everywhere use the term "market" to refer to the closest person willing to buy their catch. That has spawned other middlemen willing to invest in plants and equipment to buy, process and sell that catch to others, often other middlemen, and eventually the consumers.

These first middlemen, often refered to as "secondary producers," have found they can make good money from fishermen's reluctance to go directly as possible to the consumers, or at least the retailers. In actuality, even if the secondary producers go away or spend their money on limos and condos and can't give a good ex-vessel price, the markets are still there.

Ray Cessarini in Valdez, Alaska got a good secondary processing operation going by starting out driving his halibut up the road and selling out of his pickup. Harold Kalve in Anchorage did the same thing. He drove his catch south in a refrigerated truck and sold his catch at a big intersection in Colorado. Others have made a good living buying product from the Gulf and driving north and selling out of a truck in the upper Midwest.

It grieves me to hear about the Gulf shrimpers dumping bags of headed shrimp in the harbor because they say their "market" has been wiped out by the hurricanes. News flash: the hurricanes didn't touch the markets. It's funny how our paradigms are so rigid, but they can shift, especially when born of necessity.

I hope for a lot of fishermen's sakes that they can make this paradigm shift. And it might be the right thing to do to help them make that shift. It's probably not anyone's responsibility to help them make this shift, but it sure would help the communities where these fishermen live, and the family members affected so directly.

The author of the above article is probably right when he says it will probably surprise everyone how quickly the Gulf fishery will bounce back. If I could get cod from the Shumagin Islands off the Alaska Peninsula up to Anchorage, reboxed, then shipped to Korea, still fresh, the Gulf shrimpers probably can do something similar.

I hope they do for the sake of rebuilding that industry, but also so they can see how much more money they can make by going to the real markets. I'm generalizing a lot here, of course, but it takes a potent catalyst to make the shift in thought processes to vertically integrate, to stay in business. In Alaska it took pink prices to get below 10 cents a pound. That's like a hurricane.

The tradgedy would be for the paradigm to never shift. It would be like the court case that was won by citing an urban legend to sway the jury.


Anonymous Digichex said...

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12:27 AM  

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