Fes­ti­val brings North­west seafood industry to ex­plore new growth

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By EDDY LOK for China Daily

The Bri­tish Columbia Shell­fish and Seafood Fes­ti­val now un­der­way in Co­mox, on Van­cou­ver Is­land, has evolved for the Pa­cific North­west seafood industry into a gath­er­ing of lead­ing aqua­cul­ture busi­nesses and sup­pli­ers, seafood and shell­fish pro­duc­ers, chefs, ex­porters and ed­u­ca­tors to dis­cuss and ex­plore in­no­va­tions, chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The 11-day fes­ti­val that started on June 9 and ends on June 19 of­fers a wide range of op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­vest and par­tic­i­pate in the growth of the lo­cal shell­fish aqua­cul­ture industry, ac­cord­ing to John Wat­son, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Co­mox Val­ley Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment.

This year’s fes­ti­val is be­ing held in the mid­dle of the abo­rig­i­nal heart­land of the Komoks in Co­mox Val­ley. It is show­cas­ing award-win­ning and in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned chef Hidekazu Tojo of Tojo’s Res­tau­rant, chef Quang Dang and his ac­claimed West Res­tau­rant and chef Nathan Fong, award-win­ning food-stylist and me­dia per­son­al­ity rep­re­sent­ing BC Seafood.

Co­mox Val­ley pro­duces the most shell­fish in Bri­tish Columbia, and the most oys­ters in Canada, with the abo­rig­i­nal Co­mox Val­ley’s lakes and rivers hav­ing been har­vested for mil­len­nia to pro­vide a great va­ri­ety of fish and shell­fish.

Co­mox Mayor Paul Ives said dur­ing a tour of the lo­cal wharf that the chal­lenge for lo­cal seafood com­pa­nies is to pro­duce enough and meet the grow­ing de­mands es­pe­cially from China.

“As we ap­proach the Chi­nese mar­ket, we want to care­fully make sure we go into that mar­ket with qual­ity and stan­dards ... we don’t want to dis­ap­point them by not hav­ing enough or hav­ing is­sues with the sup­ply chain,” he said.

Large buy­ing mis­sions also are com­ing in from Ja­pan, South Korea, Viet­nam, the Philip­pines, Europe and the US, ac­cord­ing to Ives.

Sandy More­land, pres­i­dent of More­land Group, which ex­ports BC seafood prod­ucts to most Asian coun­tries, said the bulk of seafood from Van­cou­ver in­cludes live prawns. Ship­ments must go overnight in a hurry, then put in hold­ing tanks so that cus­tomers at restau­rants in Asia can see live seafood. “Chi­nese are will­ing to pay high pre­mium for good seafood prod­ucts,” said More­land, who gave up his job as a pi­lot years ago to go into the seafood busi­ness.

The eco­nomic im­pact of sal­mon farm­ing to the BC econ­omy is $1.4 bil­lion, gen­er­at­ing 5,000 jobs. Industry pub­li­ca­tion SeafoodSource has re­ported that the price of Canada-farmed sal­mon is ex­pected to in­crease again in the sec­ond half of 2016, partly due to the Chile’s mas­sive toxic al­gae bloom.

“As long as they are will­ing to pay good prices, we are will­ing to ship to them on a daily ba­sis. We want to broaden our mar­ket base as our prod­ucts are re­puted to be of qual­ity,” More­land said.

He said China is also the big­gest buyer of live crabs, prawns, oys­ters and other ma­rine pro­duce.

More­land sees a grow­ing busi­ness not only for the Chi­nese main­land, but in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Sin­ga­pore, In­done­sia and the Philip­pines where the emer­gence of an in­creas­ing num­ber of mid­dle and up­per class of peo­ple with greater dis­pos­able in­comes buy what they want, in­clud­ing qual­ity seafood.

Apart from trade, an­other sig­nifi area for Chi­nese in­vestors has been Co­mox real es­tate.

“We wel­come Chi­nese in­vestors. There has been in­vest­ment in a pulp pa­per mill nearby but has since been sus­pended as the mar­ket isn’t there right now. Chi­nese are al­ways open to op­por­tu­ni­ties. They are now talk­ing about open­ing a ho­tel down here. It is a mat­ter of time whether mar­ket can sup­port it,” Ives said.

As long as they are will­ing to pay good prices, we are will­ing to ship to them on a daily ba­sis.”

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