In recent years, the Irish Seafood Sector, worth €810 million in 2013, has concentrated on new markets in Asia where demand for quality seafood is showing phenomenal growth. Irish shellfish in particular is highly sought after in China and Hong Kong and exports to Asian markets have increased by 34 per cent.
One of the speakers at the event, Joe Gill, Director, Goodbody Ireland believes the sector faces similar issues to the Irish Dairy industry in the 1980’s: "The Irish Seafood sector resembles the dairy industry in 1984 due to quota restriction, a fragmented processing infrastructure, a limited international footprint and zero presence on the stockmarket. The dairy sector evolved by consolidating through investment. The seafood sector should have the ambition to follow that route and taking a 10 year view, it is not unreasonable to target three stockmarket listed seafood companies based in Ireland but operating globally. To achieve this goal, the industry needs leadership, vision and capital."
One of the major priorities for BIM is to assist the sector to build scale. The Irish seafood sector currently has 180 registered Irish seafood companies with processing facilities in Ireland. A large number of these companies are small-scale, often family-run firms with a turnover ranging from €3 million to €10 million. While these family-run businesses must remain an essential component of the Irish seafood landscape, it is in stark contrast to one of the typical European competitors with an average turnover in the order of €50 million.
Jason Whooley, BIM’s Chief Executive outlined the opportunities for the sector and the agency’s plans to assist the ‘scaling up’ of the industry: "Ireland is being presented with opportunities for unprecedented sectoral growth that are largely dependent on our ability to produce and supply fish and related products to an increasing world population and its growing demand for seafood which will see the global requirement for fish grow by an additional 42 million tonnes per annum by 2030. The opportunities being presented to industry can only be fully utilised if Ireland increases sustainability, competitiveness, grows industry scale and expands the raw material base. In terms of scale, Mr Whooley also stressed the inward investment opportunities for the sector; ‘Irish seafood is considered a premium protein commodity on our key markets. International companies are viewing Ireland as a realistic investment proposition and BIM will continue to facilitate strategic partnerships to enable this investment to take place."
The conference is expected to attract more than 200 delegates from industry and the investment and banking community and is the first national industry-wide event organised by the Agency under its strategy 2013-2017. The conference’s speaker line-up includes key international seafood players and investment experts giving delegates access to business heavyweights operating nationally and internationally at the top of the seafood and agri-food sectors.