January 31, 2024

Roman Tkachenko: Ukraine war is “horrible,” but US seafood ban not hurting Russia

Roman Tkachenko, the CEO of Direct Source Seafood, a seafood importer based in Bellevue, Washington, U.S.A., is not thrilled with the U.S. government’s decision to implement and then expand a ban on Russian seafood entering the U.S.Russian king crab inventories are almost extinguished in the U.S., and it’s impossible to bring more in as cooked frozen legs and claws, even with third-country processing that would change the country of origin. That’s because the only way to achieve a “deep transformation” of king crab to qualify it for the change is to process it into crab meat. Cooking from live king crab it is not enough for U.S. customs authorities, Tkachenko said. And Russia is getting such high prices from Chinese and Asian buyers for whole live and frozen crab, they don’t need to sell to the U.S., he said.“In China, the majority of live crab goes to high-end dining, and from what I've seen, it is a status symbol to have king crab on the table. You go out to a restaurant and take someone out for dinner for business, and the price doesn’t matter,” Tkachenko said.In the U.S., the only sources available for king crab are Alaskan and Norwegian product, and there’s just not enough to support a robust market, with Alaska’s red king crab catch set at 2.1 million pounds for 2024 and Norway’s quota cut 60 percent to 2.2 million pounds. And much of that supply is mid-size crab, which struggles to sell, according to Tkachenko.“Prices are too high,” Tkachenko said. “The category will continue to be a niche item.”The shriveling of king crab trade has shrunk Direct Source’s sales from a high of USD 490 million (EUR 453 million) to just under USD 300 million (EUR 278 million) in 2023, even though the company’s sales volume is up. “We had to make that pretty fast pivot,” Tkachenko said. “I'm impressed with the pounds that we're able to generate – I think it's a sign of a healthy business. We were able to build those pounds up and get a really good run in the snow crab out of Canada this past year and shrimp.”Founded in 2010, Direct Source specializes in …