New Brunswick

The price of a lobster roll is clawing its way up

The post pandemic demand for lobster is increasing the price of a lobster roll at some New Brunswick restaurants this summer.

International markets are driving the price of lobster up

The lobster roll platter at Le Moque-Tortue has been priced at $19 for the past two years. (Submitted/Sébastien Després)

If you have an appetite for a lobster roll, you should be prepared to stomach a price increase this summer.

The post pandemic demand for lobster has driven up market prices, and is forcing some restaurant owners to make some tough decisions.

Sébastien Després is the owner of Le Moque-Tortue, a bistro in Shediac, N.B., a town that calls itself the Lobster Capital of the World.   

The average cost of a lobster roll at a restaurant in Shediac is between $18 and $32, according to Després.

"It's because the international markets are absolutely bonkers," he said.

On Friday, a cooked whole lobster was selling at $10.75 per pound at Cape Bald Packers. (Robert F. Bukaty/The Associated Press)

And he said if the price of lobster doesn't decrease, people could be paying between $25 and $45 within a few weeks. 

While some restaurants have increased their lobster roll prices already, Després said he's waiting another week before he makes a change.

"We've been hopeful that the international markets calm down, but actually they have been doing the opposite, so we're playing a waiting game," he said.

A lobster roll at Després' restaurant is $19 with sides, a price that he set two years ago. 

But in the two years since he set those prices, the cost of lobster has more than doubled. 

"If we're losing money every time a client sits at one of our seats then it's not a very good business model either."

The town of Shediac calls itself the Lobster Capital of the World. (Twitter)

Després said restaurants in Shediac are mindful of having to adjust lobster prices because they don't want to scare away customers. 

On Friday, a cooked whole lobster was selling at $10.75 per pound at Cape Bald Packers, a processor in Cap-Pelé.

"Nobody wants to be perceived as the place that's gouging customers, but consumers don't yet realize that lobster prices have more than doubled," Després said.

As expensive as a lobster roll in Shediac may be this summer, it's not quite as bad as what some restaurants in neighbouring Maine are charging. 

In Wiscasset, about 45 kilometres from Freeport, a lobster roll and fries can cost you over $40 in Canadian currency.

Strong market

The price increases are a sign of a strong lobster market, according to Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.

"We've just seen a dramatic increase in the demand for lobster meat," he said.

Irvine said the lobster prices collapsed at the start of the pandemic, but recovered quickly once China and the U.S. started to reopen. 

"It's a world wide market and processors all around Atlantic Canada want to get the best return they can," Irvine said.

"It may seem like it's a lot to pay for a lobster roll in Fredericton or Saint John, but folks have to remember that harvesters are doing better, and processors are doing better, and so that means jobs all through the province."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.

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