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(Expressed in Thousands of Pounds)
Month Latest month
a year ago
1,900 By freight
1,573 Shellfish, etc.
2,794 Fresh-water fish
1,440 Rosefish fillets
do 6,394 10,232
do 18, 282 12,941 22,001
reported by wholesale dealers including smokers.
Boston which are for the last Wednesday of the month. Data on United States holdings
1.6 no. 5
FISHERY MARKET NEWS
9 10 12 18 18
17 17 33 22
FISH CEILING PRICES IN 301 A.D., by Richard A. Kahn
DURING 1943, by Lorraine D. Peterson
Charles F. Shockey and F. Bruce Sanford
Use of torn Tsurf" or "skimmer clam" considered ....
And t, 16 to MPR-364 effective April 24
Employers required to file requests for deferment of 4-F registrants
Draft boards instructed in reclassifying 4-F's
Canned U. S. salmon offers requested
Clarifies operation of fish oil order
Solicits labor for the Maine sardine industry
Metal container situation remains critical
Tisheries of Washington and Oregon
Three port landings in March 54 percent greater than February
13 36 37 39 40 40 41 41 42 43 43 15 15 13 14 42
Applications for FISHERY MARKET ‘NEWS, which is mailed free to members of the fishery industry and allied interests, should be addressed
to the Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Department of the Interior, Washington 25, D. Ć.
If it is true that nothing in the world is new, it is certainly true with regard to fish ceiling prices.
About 1,600 years ago, the Roman Emperor, Diocletian, issued his famous maximum price regulation which included fish in addition to more than 1,100 other items. The reasons for such a regulation were similar to the reasons for present day maximum price regulations by the Office of Price Administration. The Roman Empire in those days was engaged in several wars. An army had to be maintained in Germany as well as one in Africa. The salaries of the officers and the compensation of the soldiers had, despite nominal equality, different buying power in the different parts of the empire. Diocletian wanted to equalize the buying power and to prevent the officers and soldiers from suffering under prices that were too high and too varied. At the same time, the empire was in grave financial condition. The denarius/ had been inflated, decreasing its value to about 10 percent to that of approxi
: mately 100 years before.
The maximum price regulation of Diocletian had 47 sections, of which the content of only 37 sections are known. In these sections, we find ceiling prices for all types of articles and services such as shoes, clothes, and laundry. We also find ceiling prices for wild and tame animals, for ladies' girdles, and for sleeping wagons. In Section 5, we find the prices for fish. A translation of Section 5 follows:
These were retail as well as wholesale and ex-vessel prices. Diocletian felt that prices on the different distribution levels would adjust themselves. He waited in vain for this adjustment. His failure to establish separate prices for producers, wholesalers, and retailers, was one of the reasons why his regulation was without effect and why the regulation did not survive Diocletian's administration which ended in 305 A.D. with his abdication. * Chief, Economic Facilities Branch, V. S. Office of the Coordinator of Fisheries, 1/The denarius is comparable to our dime. "Dime" is a derivative of denarius. 2 The prices in Diocletian's regulation are mentioned in denarii and per Italian pound. They are trans
lated in American pounds on the basis of one Italian pound equalling 327 grams and one denarius equalling 0.74 cents.
In the following, an attempt is made to compare the ceiling prices of Diocletian with the ceiling prices of the Office of Price Administration.
For the purpose of making a comparison, a weighted average of the present ex-vessel price for sea fish was calculated as being 9.1 cents per pound for the summer season, and 9.9 cents per pound for the winter season.
As a basis for weighting the average price, quantities of fish consumed were selected on the basis of the Restaurant Food Index for New York, as recently published in the Journal of Marketing.1) The writer is conscious that these weights are not representative of family consumption or of total consumption, but since specific studies on these subjects have not been made, the weighted restaurant consumption, as published in the Journal of Marketing, was the best available approach to the problem.
If one adds an average mark-up of 43 cents for the wholesaler and of 9 cents for the retailer, as established in Maximum Price Regulations 418 and 507, one arrives at a retail ceiling price of 22.6 cents (summer) and 23.5 cents (winter). These are not much different from the ceiling prices established 1,600 years ago.
A sharp price distinction between fresh-water fish and salt-water fish is not made in our day. The prices of fresh-water fish today are in most cases above the prices paid for salt-water fish. Under normal conditions, the ex-vessel price of fresh-water fish averages about double that of salt-water fish. Diocletian, however, had fixed the price of best quality fresh-water fish 50 percent below the price of salt-water fish.
Salted fish are valued in Diocletian's regulation only at one-half of the price of fresh-water fish, or one-fourth of the price of sea fish, which is in sharp contrast to the present day situation in which prices of salted fish are often double the prices of fresh fish on the wholesale level. Since we know little about the quality of salted fish in ancient times and about the methods of salting, an explanation for Diocletian's low ceiling in this case can hardly be given.
Diocletian ventured to establish quality differentials for fresh fish, a distinction to which the OPA is opposed (with good reasons). These quality differentials, however, are comparable to present day market usages which distinguish between "trap" and "gill net" fish or between "new receipts" and "held over" fish. The range, .4 to 8 cents per pound, is not much different from similar differentials, as shown, for example, in Fish and Wildlife Service reports for the salt-water market in New York City.
Sardines are especially mentioned in Diocletian's regulation as having a price of 16 cents and equalling about 66 percent of the price of salt-water fish. Today, pilchard and sea herring are valued at only about 1/10 or 1/20 of the average price of salt-water fish, Of course, in those days, sardines were not produced in quantity for canning and reduction as they are today.
Remarkable is the fact that in Diocletian's times fish were valued higher than meat. Pork cost only 12 cents and beef only 8 cents per pound. The best quality of salted pork cost 16 cents per pound, the best quality of ham cost 20 cents per pound, beef sausage was 10 cents per pound, and a chicken cost about 21 cents. These figures indicate that in the days of Diocletian there was a high appreciation for fish food and a willingness to pay for this appreciation. That the prices paid for fish actually were very high can be seen from a comparison with wages. A farm laborer (including slave labor) received 19 cents 1 Volume 9, page 34. The price there is based on the following weights: 1. Cod
302 lbs. 2. Halibut
272 3. Mackerel
25 4. Salmon
240 5. Crabmeat
22 The price was computed by taking Table A prices, as published in OPA's MPR-418, especially cod, drawn, size 2-10 pounds; halibut, size 10-60 pounds; salmon, king, red meated, size 14 pounds and over; and shrimp of 15-18 count. Fillet prices were computed according to Table B of MPR-418. Crabmeat was priced according to the Fish and Wildlife Service report of June 22, 1944, on the New York Salt-water Market. Mackerel and scallops were priced according to weighted averages based on Fish and Wildlife Service reports of volume and value of the catch in 1943.