18th October

Demand holds for Irish seafood on world markets

Seafood exports to 72 countries increased by 16% in 2017 to €645m, in line with the increase in export volumes.

‘Average unit prices remained relatively stable at approximately €2,637/tonne across all species exported during this period,’ according to 2017-1018 Export Performance & Prospects released by Bord Bia.

2017 Bord Bia Seafood exports

‘Demand for salmon is expected to outstrip supply for 2018, especially for Irish organic salmon where production is forecast to remain stable or even slightly decrease, and prices are ‘firm due to stable global production.’

While global salmon production in 2018 is not expected to increase significantly, Norwegian plans for major growth by 2030 based on offshore technology ‘could see a quintupling of production in the long-term’.

Richie Flynn, IFA Aquaculture, however told Inshore Ireland he sees no evidence that the Norwegian industry has any desire or plans to quintuple production using offshore sites in the short or medium term.

“Irish production is focused on a niche organic, high value market and as such is only marginally impacted by generic production. Our difficulty remains that we have far too little of our own fish to due to licencing difficulties to service our existing markets.”

At a glance 

France, Spain, UK, Italy and Germany continue to dominate seafood exports at 57%; Irish fresh salmon exports to Poland increased by 330%. The share of seafood exports to international markets continued at roughly 25% of total exports with Africa’s four main markets (Nigeria, Cameroon, Egypt and Ghana) accounting for 10% of total exports.

Exports to Asian markets (China (+12%); Hong Kong (~ %); South Korea (+3%) and Japan (+29%) increased by 5% in value terms to the end of October. Overall, this region accounted for roughly 11% of total seafood export values.

Pelagic

Volumes of pelagic fish exports were up 14% with the value of trade up 5%. The pelagic sector currently accounts for 27% (-30% on 2016) of total seafood export values and up to 59% of total volume exported (down from 63% in 2016).

‘The ongoing closure of the Russian market is placing an increased emphasis on the need to open up and grow sales in new markets. Positive factors include strong demand from European and Japanese customers, coupled with growing business in select Eastern European markets.’

Whitefish

Total whitefish exports show an increase of 7% in value terms to core markets of Spain (+10%); France (~%); and the UK (-9%).

‘Export demand remains strong so strategies to increase the volume of fish landed in Ireland will remain crucial for the processing sector.’

The impact of Brexit remains the great unknown and may present as an opportunity or threat, says Bord Bia.

‘Companies are concerned by the prospect of tariffs and non-trade barriers potentially increasing the cost of transiting through the UK.’

In contrast however, as the main competition for Irish whitefish processors in from Scottish companies, the Irish sector could benefit ‘if the EU introduces any costs/customs on goods coming into the EU’.

Shellfish

Total shellfish exports recorded a drop in sales value by 42%. Export values of Irish langoustine fell dramatically by 40% (Italy); 38% (Spain) and 30% (France), reflecting a reduction in value of almost €20m, due to large volumes on the market and increased competition from Dutch suppliers.

The potential for sales is evident however where demand ‘far exceeds supply and is hampering the sector’s ability to grow’. Scarcity of raw material (supply and poor weather conditions) coupled with new entrants competing for finite raw material is having an impact on established suppliers and is driving up raw material prices, warns Bord Bia.

Despite these challenges, the shellfish sector is achieving a ‘more balanced market position’ between sales to Europe, Asia and the US, ‘and is positive about its growth prospects’, operating in a growing global market.

Irish oysters however grew by 13% in value, fuelled by securing improved average unit price. Exports to China more than doubled and sales to Hong Kong rose by 27% and Singapore by 19%. France remains the largest export market for oysters at 71% export values and solid growth of 7%.

Irish crab exports fell by 23% (value) due to supply challenges, corresponding to a drop in export volume of 35%. The strength of demand for Irish crab in core markets is reflected by an average unit price increase of 18%: (China +7%); France (+20%) and Spain (+29%).

Sales of Irish mussels increased by 11% in value on foot of 83% growth to the Dutch market. The Italian market remained static but export values were down 10% to the UK; by 4% to France and by 61% to Germany.

Sales of prepacked Irish mussels to Hong Kong and China show significant growth with average unit price secured at around €6/kg.

Salmon Exports increased by 77% in value and 64% in volume. The French market continues to dominate exports, accounting for over 45% of total value with sales increasing by 51%. The German market grew by 42% in value and 53% in volume and the Swiss market recorded ‘very strong performance’ with over a doubling in sales. Strong export sales growth also recorded on Polish market (+€22m) and quadrupled into Holland to reach almost €7m.

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