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German seafood purchases climb despite higher prices

But the threat of rising prices and competitition from growing markets in Asia could weigh heavy on the industry in the future.

Spending on seafood at German retail continued to grow in 2017, according to new data provided by the Fisch-Informationszentrum (FIZ).

Throughout the year, German shoppers forked out €3.9 billion ($4.5 billion), up 2.6 percent compared to the €3.8 billion ($4.4 billion) in the previous year. Overall, they bought 413,496 metric tons of seafood, up slightly (0.7 percent) from 410,423 metric tons a year earlier.

According to the FIZ, out-of-home consumption dropped slightly, resulting in a per capita consumption of 13.5 kilograms, down from 14.4 kilograms in 2016.

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Salmon (19 percent), pollock (17.5 percent), herring (16.2 percent), tuna (14.3 percent) and trout (7.1 percent) remained the most popular fish species, representing around three quarters of the total seafood consumption in Germany, the data showed.

The majority of seafood was bought in canned or marinated form (28 percent), pushing frozen seafood products to the second spot in the ranking with a 25 percent share of sales.

"The overall development is a positive one," Matthias Keller, managing director of FIZ, told IntraFish. "German consumers are prepared to spend more on their fish and seafood."

Discounters remained the main destination for German consumers to buy their products with a market share of 48.6 percent. Retailers came in second with 39.2 percent of overall volumes sold.

Threat of rising prices

FIZ warned consumer prices seafood from sustainable fisheries and aquaculture might increase due to the growing demand from outside Germany.

"Especially Asian countries have a growing number of consumers willing to pay good money for fish," Thomas Laurenroth, chair of FIZ, said during the presentation of the figures in Hamburg on Wednesday. This, he said, will impact the German market too.

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Keller highlighted the case of pollock, which has seen rampantly rising prices since the beginning of the year. He described the 30 percent hike year-on-year as "one of the biggest challenges" for Germany's seafood processors.

While demand seems unabated, retailers won't accept the higher prices easily, Keller said, adding the price development will leave the industry struggling.

In light of this, he reiterated his criticism toward the EU Commission for its failure to make progress on setting new autonomous tariff quotas (ATQs) for the period of 2019-2020.

This delay, he said, has created uncertainty in the industry "especially in light of the rising prices of raw materials."

Germany's seafood processing industry is largely dependent on imports. In 2017, the country bought 1.87 billion metric tons from foreign trade partners.

The country's own production amounted to 290,000 metric tons in 2017, with aquaculture taking a share of 36,000 metric tons.

Germany exported 1.04 million metric tons of seafood products in the course of the year.

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