SOARING demand from South Korea and North America has sent king crab prices to record levels over the past few weeks, Scandinavian shell fishermen and exporters are reporting.
Three years ago prices were a steady 75 Norwegian kroners a kilo. But in the past week the crab prices had more than doubled, selling at NOK 190 a kilo.
Some 122 tonnes of king crab landed in the northern Finnmark region last week made 20 million kroners (£1.8 million) . The boom has also attracted more than 100 fishing boats to the region.
The live crabs are loaded on pallets on to a DHL aircraft in Finnmark and flown to Oslo before the longer flight to Seoul or the US.
Flights from the north are now up to two per week. And fisherman Lars-Jøran Wickstrøm told the broadcaster NRK recently that the surge in prices has attracted a large number of younger fishermen into the shellfish business.
During 2017, king crab exports from Norway were worth NOK 254 million, with Korea by far the most important market.
The US and Canada were the second largest markets, with an increase in export value of 18 and nine per cent, respectively, compared with 2016.
However, a significant proportion of the crabs sent to South Korea are re-exported to other Asian countries and to the US, which has raised concerns among Norwegian exporters who believe they are missing out on higher value re-export prices.
Destinations are also shifting. In 2016 Japan was the largest market for frozen king crabs but has since dropped to sixth place, with a reduced export value of 86 per cent, largely because Japan has not been able to compete with countries that pay better for crabs.
In the US, ordering a king crab in a restaurant will cost a diner almost $400, but they are so big that they can easily be shared among ten people.