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EU bass, bream sector needs marketing help

Growth in the sector, combined with more successful marketing could help turnaround the EU's seafood trade deficit.

With the only growth in both fisheries and aquaculture production currently coming from Asia -- potentially unsustainably -- the European Union needs to start pulling its weight in contributing to the expected future growth and demand for seafood, according to Kontali’s Paul Steinar Valle.

For the moment, however, there is an increasing imbalance in seafood trade in Europe, with the vast majority imported. And although volumes of seafood imports have been more or less stable over the past decade, the value has increased significantly, meaning the EU is paying more for it.

Sea beam and sea bass are two major aquaculture species in Europe through which the EU could start to remedy this deficit.

But while production of both species seems to be increasing, more needs to be done on the marketing and competitiveness front, said Valle.

Production of sea bass has increased 259 percent since 2003 – 11 percent per year – and its value is up by 288 percent over the same period. Prices for the fish have increased 8 percent, or 1 percent annually, said Valle.

For sea bream it is a similar story, with production up 200 percent – 10 percent annually – and value up 246 percent. Prices for sea bream are up 16 percent, or 2 percent per year.

However, taking Italy as an example, Greek supplies to the market – indicative for the EU – have been relatively stable between 2008 and 2016, while the increase in market demand has largely been met by Turkey through imports.

The main driver for this is price, said Valle. The price levels from Turkey, the main competitor, have been systemically and significantly below those from Greece. “There is essentially a 20 percent discount for Turkish fish,” said Valle. Likewise the emerging North European markets are supplied by imports -- from Turkey.

“So there is a lot to be done to compete,” said Valle. “Production and cost efficiency can be improved, there is room technological development, but crucially there is a need for improved marketing like there is in Norway for salmon which would aid both volume growth and price improvements,” he said.

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This story originally appeared in our World Seafood Congress 2017 blog. Catch up on the full coverage here.

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