Rising demand for seafood driving price increases

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Price reductions for imported herring and tuna will bring needed
relief from recent hikes for many European processors, while others
will be paying more for their seafood supplies, according to Food
and Agriculture (FAO) forecasts.

In its November reports on different sectors of the industry FAO unit Globefish said the broad trend facing seafood buyer is the continued overall rising costs for many categories. The cost of European seafood imports will generally rise due to the strengthening of the dollar in recent weeks against the euro and UK sterling.

Imported groundfish prices, on the other hand, appear stable even with the euro increases for dollar denominated products. Increases are also being reported by Eurofish's agents for certain frozen squid products, due to supply constraints, and for lobster products in the run up to the peak consumption period.

The 38 per cent jump in price Norway received for its herring over the first nine months of the year was not maintained according to reported sales at November. Globefish said that customer resistance, particularly in the key Russian market, appears to have forced a downward readjustment of frozen herring prices after the highs in October.

Total Norwegian herring exports for the first nine months of the year remained similar to those for the previous year, while average unit prices rose by 38 per cent to 6.99 NOK/kg (€0.89/kg).

Prices for Norway’s exports of herring peaked in October 2005, making it the highest export value recorded in one month. Russia was the largest buyer, closely followed by the Ukraine. The total herring export in October came to 2.5 billion kroner (€317.6m), an increase of 463 million kroner (€58.8m) over the same month in 2004.

The increased figure is in line with an overall record increase in seafood exports from the country, according to the Norwegian Seafood Export Council.

Within the total figure, exports of whole frozen herring were down by four per cent to 170,500 tonnes. Russian imports from Norway fell by five per cent to 83,000 tonnes from 87,000 tonnes and Belarus imports rose by nine per cent to 7,000 tonnes from 6,500 tonnes.

Unit costs in this category increased across the board, with Russia paying 47 per cent more for the category, Belarus 49 per cent more and Ukraine 34 per cent.

The unit value of whole herring to the Netherlands was the highest at 8.32 NOK/kg (€1.06/kg), compared with the average of 6.20 NOK/kg (€0.79), which could in part be a reason for the country's static import volumes from Norway. This was balanced by the Netherlands substantial increasing its imports from the UK during 2005, Globefish stated.

Norway's exports of frozen herring fillets in 2005 amounted to just under 60,000 tonnes, a 15 per cent increase on 2004, while the total unit value went up by 41 per cent. Russia was largest importer of frozen fillets, increasing its imports by 52 per cent and paying 41 per cent more in unit value. Exports increased to Germany, Poland and the Netherlands by nine, eight and six per cent respectively, with corresponding increases in unit value of 35 per cent, 51 per cent and 27 per cent.

France was the only country to decrease its import of frozen fillets. Exports to France fell by 48 per cent, while the unit value rose by 46 per cent.

Norwegian sales of herring flaps remained stable, exporting about 1,000 tonnes at an increased unit value of 10.16 NOK/kg. Markets in Germany and the Netherlands both fell, while a new market emerged in Belarus.

The overall market for cured herring fell by 36 per cent during the nine month period. The category total unit value rose by 22 per cent during the period.

Meanwhile Iceland will be bringing more supply onto the market, as the herring fishery season get underway again. Iceland's catch, with the main fishing taking place from October to January off the southeast, southwest and south coasts of Iceland. Catches of Icelandic herring have increased steadily since 1975 and now amount to over 100,000 tonnes per year. The allowable catch for the new season for Icelandic vessels is 157,700 tonnes.

Iceland profited from the Atlanto-Scandian herring fishery this year, with exports estimated at around €65 million, more than double the figure for 2004.

In Ireland the processing industry remains seriously affected by quota restrictions that have led to a shortage of raw material, while a series of investigations into alleged illegal landings has resulted in Irish vessels increasing moving to take their catches to foreign ports. Four pelagic processing plants have ceased production during the past year, making it increasingly difficult for the industry to re-establish itself, Globefish reported.

In the UK, the top pelagic port of Peterhead recorded landings of around 20,000 tonnes of herring to August, with a value of £4.25 million, up from 16,000 tonnes with a value of £2 million during the same period in 2004.

The value of pelagic fish landed at the port now exceeds that of white fish, which is in part due to new developments in port facilities and processing infrastructure, according to John Paterson, outgoing CEO of Peterhead Harbour Trustees.

UK exports of whole frozen herring in January to August 2005 increased by 71 per cent, to about 30,000 tonnes. Total export value rose to £10.7 million from £6 million.

"Just a year ago, analysts were warning that continued pelagic price increases were not sustainable, yet there seems no end in sight to this trend and UK export values are still below those achieved by Norway,"​ Globefish reported.

The Netherlands now accounts for half of the UK's exports, increasing by 339 per cent to 15,000 tonnes. Germany also increased its imports from the UK by 211 per cent to 6,000 tonnes.

In the tuna sector prices have eased due to a huge increase in catches. Still fresh and frozen tuna prices still very low though increasing generally, stated Helga Josupeit, an FAO Globefish analyst.

Germany and Italy are the fastest growing European import markets for tuna, while French and UK volume imports remain stable. She forecasts that fresh and frozen tuna trade will stabilise. Spanish imports have declined.

Average import unit prices are roughly stable compared to 2004 in Spain, France and the UK but declines in the cost of tuna are occuring in Italy and Germany.

In the farmed fish markets, lower prices are being reported for turbot and salmon in November, Globefish stated.

In the shrimp market Globefish reported that the price increases are not likely given the trading has not grown in value in recent years. The US has become a main player in shrimp trade in recent years and has reported lower imports recently, due to anti-dumping measures. The Japanese market continues to demand less shrimp.

The EU market seems at the moment the strongest of the three in terms of price increases, as demand is quite good and the Euro still relatively strong on the US dollar, Globefish reported.

But the economic growth seems to be less than forecast some time ago, and any further expansion of shrimp consumption in EU countries depends on the value of the Euro and on future economic outlooks.

On world markets the shrimp supply has expanded in recent years, but not so much for shrimp going into international trade.

Overall worldwide fishery production continuous to increase, but at lower growth rates than some years before, Globefish reported. With wild fish stocks increasingly being fully fished or overfished, the growth is mainly due to aquaculture production, which has grown at an average rate of nine per cent since 1970, while wild capture production remained relatively stable at values around 90 million tons since the nineties.

By 2003, the share of aquaculture accounted for about one third of total production.

Fish and fishery products are the most internationally traded foodstuffs in the world. About 38 per cent of the world fish by live weight is traded internationally. In value terms, about 50 per cent of the trade originates in developing countries, while almost 80 per cent of fish imports are destined to the US, EU and Japan markets.

Globefish is the unit in the FAO fisheries department responsible for information on international fish trade.

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