Cape Breton seafood making inroads into Asian markets.
The co-operative approach shown by Nova Scotia companies on a trade mission to Asia is paying dividends for the local seafood industry, an official with a Cape Breton fisheries co-operative says.
The Atlantic Canadian delegation taking part in the trade mission consists of representatives of 700 businesses. The itinerary includes the China Fisheries and Seafood Expo in Qingdao, the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, and the Canada China Business Council annual general meeting in Beijing. In the last decade, the value of Nova Scotia’s exports to China has grown from $54 million to $604 million annually.
In a phone interview Friday from Shanghai, Osborne Burke, general manager of Victoria Co-operative Fisheries Ltd., said that, in addition to taking part in trade shows, his time in Asia also involves taking meetings with customers.
“The three days at the (Qingdao) show were extremely busy, the busiest in the four or five years I’ve been going there,” he said. “There was a lot of interest in product, in seafood and, in particular, Canada and Atlantic Canada, we had a lot of people in attendance at the show.”
Louisbourg Seafoods also took part in the trade mission.
Burke noted that many of the Nova Scotian companies who were at the trade show shared a booth and worked co-operatively in trying to attract new business.
“It’s typical of the Nova Scotians, we share the open space and we all kind of work together,” Burke said. “Sometimes we’ll get an inquiry for a product we don’t carry but somebody in the other part of the booth does. If we get an inquiry on shrimp, well, Louisbourg Seafood has shrimp.
“It’s critical, the networking, the working together and I found in the last three or four years it’s been excellent with the group of companies that come.”
Asia has a large population and its people have a voracious appetite for seafood, Burke noted.
There was a good deal of interest shown in one of the Victoria co-operative’s newer product lines, the Jonah crab.
“It was a mix of meeting with existing customers to get some idea of what they’re looking for in the coming season and also potential new customers looking at our traditional lobster and snow crab, but also in our Jonah crab, of which we shipped three containers already this fall season,” Burke said. “We’re hoping to increase that again next year.”
In the past five years, the co-operative has gone from no direct sales to Asian customers to an expectation of $4-5 million in sales next year, he said. The direct contact with clients in the market is critical, Burke said.
“You’re also finding out what is happening in the area, you’re speaking to various people and finding out what is happening in the market place there,” he said. “There’s a real expectation from your customers in China that you’re there, this is the biggest show around … they’re always looking for an overview of where you expect pricing to be each year.”
The clients are also providing them with information about what trends they are seeing in the market.
The success of the Jonah crab line has provided additional work for the cooperative during a time of year when they would traditionally shut down, Burke noted.
In 2017, Nova Scotia seafood exports to China climbed to $386 million. Exports are up 22 per cent for the first eight months of 2018, compared to the same period last year.
In 2017, exports from Nova Scotia to Japan were valued around $111 million, up from $62 million in 2009.
The trade mission continues until Nov. 24, although Burke is due to return to Canada Saturday.
Cape Breton seafood, such as that processed at Louisbourg Seafoods in this file photo, has been in high demand during a trade mission to Asia.