Abundant harvest of local Korean blue crabs lowers prices

2023.09.19 13:31:01 | 2023.09.19 15:30:05

[Courtesy of Lotte Mart]이미지 확대

[Courtesy of Lotte Mart]

A fleet of blue crab fishing boats head out to sea from Sinjindo Port in Taean, South Chungcheong Province, daily at midnight. After more than 500 boats diligently work throughout the night, approximately 90 tons of freshly caught blue crabs arrive at Sinjindo Port by 5 a.m. Thanks to the bountiful harvest this year, the price per kilogram of blue crab is lower than in previous years.

“We aim to have the freshest catch and promptly deliver the crabs to our customers. It is an ideal time to savor blue crabs immediately as the regular restrictions on fishing crabs have been lifted,” according to Kwak Myung-yeop, the head of Lotte Mart’s fisheries team.

According to Lotte Mart, on Monday, the fall crab season is in full swing since the fishing ban, which prevents the capture of fish for reproduction, ended on August 21. To ensure a steady supply of blue crabs just before the season’s end, Lotte Mart entered into preliminary contracts with 30 fishing boats from Sinjindo Port, the largest blue crab fishing spot.

This year has seen a remarkable 1.5-fold increase in blue crab volume compared to the previous year. This could be attributed to government efforts in recent years to protect young blue crabs, including the distribution of measuring devices at fishing sites to monitor catch sizes and the annual release of 400,000 young blue crabs.

As a result, the price per kilogram of blue crab is now at its lowest point in three years. After hitting 11,000 won ($8.30) per kilogram in 2021 and 10,800 won last year, the price fell to 9,970 won this year, nearly 10 percent lower than the previous year. Even after concerns about the Japanese government’s release of wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, blue crabs have continued to sell at levels comparable to previous years.

After a morning of hard work, the crabs are transferred to cargo ships and then loaded onto trucks at Sinjindo Port. Each 1-ton pickup truck can carry between 10 to 15 boxes, each containing 40 kilograms of live crabs. Lotte Mart secures approximately 15 tons of live crabs every morning and transports them to its facility.

With the increased volume this year, Lotte Mart is placing greater emphasis on the sorting process. Upon arrival at the facility, the crabs are sorted into 2-kilogram boxes. Sinjindo Port boasts 15 workshops, four of which are being used by Lotte Mart.

Each workshop has a sorting team comprising six to seven experienced staff members to supply only the highest-quality crabs to consumers. Crabs that are hollow, undersized, or too soft are shipped to smaller channels, such as local markets.

“Those with over two decades of sorting experience can instantly identify a premium crab,” Kwak said. After the sorting process in the workshop, the crabs are loaded onto trucks and directly delivered to 20 stores in South Chungcheong Province, including Lotte Mart Dangjin. Each store receives 100 boxes of crabs, while an additional 5,000 boxes are sent to the Gimhae logistic center in South Gyeongsang Province and the Osan center in Gyeonggi Province every day.

Kang Sung-hyun, chief executive officer at bLotte Mart, inspected the supply site at Sinjindo Port on September 14 and stressed the importance of delivering blue crabs to customers as quickly as possible to preserve their freshness. “Lotte Mart is reinforcing the sorting process and aims to offer the finest blue crabs through direct delivery,” Kang noted.

By Hong Sung-yong and Han Yubin

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