In a seller’s mar­ket, how does Europe guar­an­tee Asian sup­plies?

Fish Farmer - - Quiet Revolution -

AN EU funded project look­ing at the EU’s fu­ture po­si­tion in the global seafood sys­tem found a de­cline in the vol­ume of fish im­ported by Euro­pean coun­tries from Asia.

Europe aims to de­velop its aqua­cul­ture sec­tor through tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion plat­forms and it hopes that Asia is go­ing to de­velop such a plat­form as well, said Pro­fes­sor Jo­han Ver­reth of Wa­genin­gen Uni­ver­sity, who is work­ing on the Hori­zon 2020 Eurastip project.

Aqua­cul­ture is grow­ing in Viet­nam and Bangladesh and is sta­ble or de­creas­ing in Thai­land and the EU. Con­sump­tion is grow­ing heav­ily in Asia, and slightly in the EU.

Con­sump­tion in the whole of Europe shows that more farmed seafood is eaten in the south than in the north, where they eat a lot of wild caught fish.

EU pro­duc­tion is 1.3 mil­lion tonnes, worth 4 bil­lion eu­ros. Con­sump­tion is 25.1kg per capita per year and is grow­ing slowly. Some 6.5 kg is farmed, of which 57 per cent is sourced from out­side the EU, in­clud­ing Nor­way.

This rep­re­sents a very small amount com­pared to the an­i­mal sec­tor, and it is dif­fi­cult for fish to reach the ef­fi­ciency of the poul­try sec­tion.

The trend over the years is that the self-suf­fi­ciency rate is de­clin­ing. This ac­counts for seafood in gen­eral and farmed seafood too.

‘The ques­tion is why? Don’t we pro­duce enough?’ asked Ver­reth. ‘Changes in con­sumer pref­er­ences over the last decade show us eat­ing much more salmon (25 per cent), while the share of pan­ga­sius has de­creased at about the same rate.’

Trad­ing part­ners

Among the EU’s seafood trad­ing part­ners, Bangladesh has wit­nessed an ex­plo­sive growth of aqua­cul­ture, by 16 times in pro­duc­tion vol­ume over the last 30 years (19842014).There has been a shift from un­fed to fed pro­duc­tion; in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion is hap­pen­ing.

But the amount of shrimp the EU im­ports is de­creas­ing. The po­si­tion of Europe re­mains about eight per cent as a mar­ket in Bangladesh.

In Thai­land, over­all pro­duc­tion has de­creased, with dis­eases play­ing a part. Shrimp ex­ports have de­clined quite heav­ily over three or four years, and the rel­a­tive im­por­tance of the EU in the mar­ket for Thai­land is de­creas­ing se­ri­ously.

It has dropped from 15 per cent to five per cent over 10 years, with the shift to the US and to China.

Viet­nam has dou­bled the Euro­pean pro­duc­tion. Seafood is very cru­cial to its econ­omy, the third most im­por­tant sec­tor af­ter shoes and oil.

The ex­port value of shrimp and pan­ga­sius is very sim­i­lar, although in vol­ume terms pan­ga­sius ex­ceeds shrimp.

While salmon im­ports are grow­ing, they ex­port les shrimp and much less pan­ga­sius to the EU than be­fore.

In 2012, the EU ac­counted for 25 per cent of to­tal sales of seafood and now it’s less than 20 per cent.

‘What can ex­plain these dif­fer­ences? Is it sim­ply changes in pro­duc­tion, or changes in con­sumer pref­er­ences in Europe, or are reg­u­la­tory is­sues re­lat­ing to food safety play­ing a role?’

Ver­reth said im­port tar­iffs im­posed by the EU could also have played a ma­jor part in the de­crease of ex­ports from Asia.

The EU im­ports 65 per cent of the seafood it con­sumes, mainly from Asia. In Europe, there are high stan­dards on the qual­ity of that food, re­gard­ing safety and sus­tain­abil­ity, and re­tail­ers im­pose their own rules on the food chain.

‘But we have to be aware that Asian sup­pli­ers are less de­pen­dent on EU con­sumers. What does that mean in the trade ne­go­ti­a­tions…and to what ex­tent will these trends af­fect seafood se­cu­rity in the fu­ture?

‘Europe seems to re­spond to this by say­ing we need to pro­duce more but can we ever close that gap of 65 per cent pro­duc­tion? What is our fu­ture po­si­tion in the global seafood sys­tem?

‘We are shift­ing from a buyer’s to a seller’s mar­ket,’ said Ver­reth, ‘and we have to gain their will­ing­ness to sell to us. The chal­lenge is to find a way to guar­an­tee their sup­plies.’

Above: Chang­ing trends

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