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TUNA 2018: 2nd Day (Session III: Global and Regional Tuna Trade and Markets)

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Wednesday, 30 May 2018 10:31
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Session III: Global and Regional Tuna Trade and Markets

In contrast to Session I yesterday which focused on sustainability, traceability and stock management, this morning it was time for the traders and marketers to say their piece on the status of international markets, imports and exports, present and predicted consumer trends, etc. To set the stage for further examination of international market access, the morning’s presentations were mainly overviews of the international markets by country and region. 

Mr Dave Melbourne, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility, Bumble Bee Foods (USA), (who was also the Chair of the Session) started with an overview of the US tuna market updates. Sales of frozen tuna in the US have doubled since 2011, and shelf stable seafood accounted for US$2.6 billion in sales over the last 52 weeks. Purchasers tend to be urban, mid to high income young adults (particularly millennials), and suburban small families which have driven sales of pouched tuna, sardine and ready to eat kits (currently they’re the smallest segments but also the fastest growing especially if you look at household consumption). 

Europe was covered by a few speakers, including Mr Juan Manuel Vieites Baptista De Sousa, President Eurothon/Secretary General, ANFACO-CECOPESCA/EUROTHON (Spain); Mr Henk Brus, Managing Director of Pacifical (the Netherlands); and Mr Walter John Anzer, Senior Consultant, Anzer Consultancy Ltd (UK).

Mr Vieites Baptista De Sousa spoke about the EU canned tuna industry, which is the 2nd largest producer worldwide, having an output of 361 207 tonnes in 2017. A main challenge for the EU canned tuna industry is to find ways to further enhance competitiveness of the product both in the Community and outside. Several factors were deemed important, amongst them being R & D and innovation (both in terms of product and process); environmental sustainability; social sustainability (human and labour rights, as well as quality); food safety and traceability; internationalisation (commercialisation of the products, exports, and investments in third countries); communication, education and promotion; and a level playing field.

Henk Brus posed questions to the audience:  how will the increased demand for tuna in the EU be fulfilled and where will the tuna come from, bearing in mind that in addition to tuna as a food  item, consumers in the EU want assurance on social ethics, responsible harvesting and certification.  He said that 20% of the tuna raw material sent to the EU comes from the WCP, which means that the greater proportion of the canned tuna consumed in the EU is therefore from other waters  where many of those stocks are considered overfished or are low.  

Walter Anzer then tackled the issue of the impact of Brexit in the tuna industry. From the logistics and administrative viewpoints,  documentations, EU approval lists, customs, regulations and others will need to be replaced. In the meantime, the EU Regulations covering food safety are likely to be in force until the end of the implementation period. He called on all participants to dialogue with their own governments on updates as to what changes there might be in terms of regulations and regulatory bodies.

Mr Arnab Sengupta, Director, Phoenix Group (UAE) then talked about the Middle East market for tuna, while Mr Tomohiro Asakawa, Seafood Trade Consultant, TA Pacific Co Ltd (Japan) focused on his home market, Japan.

Tuna trade in the Middle East has actually dropped in recent years so a major challenge is how to increase sales of tuna products in the region. Supplying the Middle East should be fairly easy in the sense that there are no tariff barriers, overly stringent checks or great concern with sustainability, but it is true that markets such as Libya which used to eat a lot of tuna are affected by conflict. Tuna purchases are mainly a habitual thing so that’s a good thing, but it can be seen as boring and as low cost protein. He spoke about opportunities in the Middle East, including  restaurant items (ready to serve pouch tuna), and  pet food (cats).

Moving on to Japan, Mr Asakawa spoke about the sashimi market in the country.  Taking the Tsukiji market as the reference point, he noted that both frozen and (to a lesser extent) fresh tuna sales have dropped over the past years, and prices of fresh tuna are usually higher than frozen. Meanwhile the scale of bluefin farming has increased from 137 to 175 farms in 2016, and shipments  of farmed bluefin were 13 413 tonnes in 2016 (10 224 tonnes in 2011). Interestingly, an increasing number of the ranched bluefins were raised using artificially acquired seedlings (849 seedlings in 2016 as compared to 244 in 2012).

Current trends in the Asia- Pacific tuna trade were elaborated upon by Ms Fatima Ferdouse, International Fishery Expert in Trade and Marketing. Fluctuating raw material prices are said to have adversely affected canned tuna consumption within the region but Ms Fatima opined that price is not the main reason for the plateauing sales. The reason seems to be that canned tuna is not a popular choice for SE Asian consumers and that there is presently  not much in terms of innovation to produce higher end niche products with different flavours such as the  tuna in lemon pepper which was recently introduced in the Philippines.

The huge Latin American market  was covered by Mr Dario Chemerinski, Senior Project Manager, Selecting Strategic Partners (Sao Paolo, Brazil),  under the interesting title “ Winds of Change in Latin America: How will post TPP-alliances , anti-populism policies and free trade reshape the tuna industry in the next five years?”.  He lauded the fact that populism is being replaced by more modern open trade policies.  Innovation is important, for example  the plastic coloured tubs of tuna for young people in Mexico; tuna in vegetable oil in Peru, ( more than 40 brands and easy peel cans in Chile), and tuna in hot sauces produced in Costa Rico.  With regard to the “new” TPP (minus the US) signed recently , he asked a general question “ “Is a new Latin era of cooperation with Asia coming?”  He suggested that the regional outlook ahead might include a rise in per capita consumption in several countries particularly Colombia and Argentina’ Mexico will be a centre of innovation, and Brazil will be a big market in anticipation of lower import taxes. Inevitably, China will be a main player in Latin America.

In the later part of Session III, market access and issues related to access were extensively discussed, from  FAD management to catch documentation schemes, fair labour standards, and the fight against IUU fishing.

Mr Victor Restrepo, Vice President/Chair, Scientific Advisory Committee, International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) (USA) felt that there is room for improvement in the monitoring, management and effectiveness of FADs.

The word ‘sustainability’ means different things to different people, he said. Referring to a new ISSF report summarising best practices for purse seine  fisheries using FADs, he walked participants through the MSC Standard Principles, selecting six factors in particular: Comply with flag state and RFMO reporting requirements ; (2) Report data on FAD use; (3)  Support science-based limits on the overall number of FADs used and /or FAD sets made; (4) Use non-entangling FADs only and promote the use of biodegradable FADs; (5) Develop a FAD recovery policy; and (6) For silky sharks, implement further mitigation efforts.

Traceability and accountability were further covered very ably by Mr Francisco Blaha, Independent Advisor (New Zealand) whose topic was “State Level Needs for Catch Documentation Schemes”; Mr Iain Pollard, Consultant, Key Traceability Ltd (UK); Mr Julio Moron Ayala, Managing Director, OPAGAC/AGAC (Spain); and Mr Roberto Cesari , Head of IUU Fisheries Policy, Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE) , European Commission (Brussels).

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