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Labelling Issues Hamper Irish Fish

IRELAND - Recommendations of the Irish Seafood Market Initiative Group (ISMIG) have been announced in response to industry concerns regarding falling prices, rising fuel costs and the impact of imports on the demand for Irish sourced fish.

According to the Irish Sea Fisheries Board, the group, consisting of industry members appointed by the Minister and chaired by Bord Iascaigh Mhara CEO Jason Whooley, was charged with developing a shared understanding of key market issues between fishermen, processors, co-ops, retailers and their representative organisations.

In doing so, actions which will maximise opportunities in the Irish seafood market for fishermen, processors and retailers were identified and these formed the basis of the report’s recommendations which will now be progressed throughout 2009.

The report’s recommendations focus on the key areas of Awareness and Labelling of Irish Seafood and its Route to Market.

In terms of awareness and labelling, the group noted an apparent lack of consumer awareness of the range of Irish fish available, (with salmon and cod together accounting for 60 per cent of the domestic market) as well as a lack of awareness of imported fish versus Irish caught or farmed fish arising from labelling issues.

Tailored consumer research highlighted a distinct consumer need for information on food origin and its source, and the report recommends that through an expansion of BIM’s Quality Seafood Programme (QSP), Irish seafood will become more easily identified and differentiated.

This will work in tandem with an initiative in partnership with industry to promote and increase awareness across the range of available yet underutilised and less recognised Irish species such as whiting, haddock, megrim, monkfish, hake, prawns, pollock, mussels, oysters and crab. The initiative will also work to have seafood included in the draft proposal being prepared by the European Commission aimed at consolidating and upgrading food labelling legislation.

In terms of Route to Market, the group highlighted the difficulties experienced by producers in competing against imported products whilst also acknowledging the needs of retailers to ensure continuous supplies of seafood are available to meet market demand. The group agreed that while there are a number of issues involved, the traditional industry company structures were a key constraint in developing the Irish market.

It was agreed that BIM should take the lead role in bringing forward proposals for developing a route to market strategy for the seafood sector during early 2009. These proposals would take into account each step in the chain from producer, processing, distribution to end-customer for both domestic and export markets and make recommendations on optimum structures to drive competitiveness and value-adding capability in the Irish seafood sector.

the Fish Site Editor

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