ShapeShapeauthorShapecrossShapeShapeShapeGrouphamburgerhomeGroupmagnifyShapeShapeShapeShape

Sponsor message

Trusted custom mooring solution design, deployment and monitoring

Seafood Industry to Ride Stormy Seas of Recession

OSLO, NORWAY - A strong message of seafood resilience to the recession out of a packed two-day programme at the fourth annual North Atlantic Seafood Forum in Oslo, held on 4th and 5th March.

According to North Atlantic Seafood (NASF), 470 delegates, representing 20 nations and every aspect of the coldwater seafood industry from production through to marketing and finance, gathered to hear over sixty expert speakers give their take on current supply, trading conditions and the outlook through 2009 and 2010.

The NASF has established itself as the premier industry venue for the exchange of information and making of contacts, and many delegates said that they appreciate this annual opportunity to meet, do business and socialise in an unpressured atmosphere.

Outlook for the salmon industry

After the opening formalities the all-important salmon industry was tackled, with moderator Jan Trollvik of the Norwegian Seafood Export Council pointing out the difference between doom-laden headlines and the reality - with salmon exports actually hitting a record high in February.

“Crisis – What crisis?’ Salmon is a survivor” was his message, with exports up 13 per cent by value and 1 per cent by volume. Dag Sletmo of ABG Sundal Collier sounded a note of caution over salmon prices in 2009, but sees a 3 year cycle in the industry heralding an upturn at year’s end. The Norwegian industry is currently enjoying the best prices since 2000.

Chile’s problems with ISA continue, though, and were covered in a frank report to the conference by Cermaq CEO Geir Isaksen, who can see no quick turnaround there as the disease problem is systematically tackled. (A local ‘nonsensical’ bar-room rumour that ISA was deliberately introduced into Chile by Norwegian firms as part of an‘evil conspiracy’ to take over the industry was reported by scientist Bjorn Hersoug.)

The European Seafood Retail – Challenges and opportunities

The European Seafood Retail Session, which brought together speakers from the giant multiples was a highlight of the 2009 Forum. FoodVests’s Mike Parker: “The organisers certainly showed great foresight by planning this session, given the times we are now in.” To the surprise and relief of many, market data presented by AC Nielsen showed little or no impact on seafood sales of the recession – a big disconnect between gloomy economic headlines and the far more upbeat facts.

AC Nielsen’s Jonathan Banks: “We’re not seeing in food sales the scary stuff – the industry is not recession-proof, but recession-resistant.” He went on to warn of the dangers of cutting marketing costs in recession- all the experience of previous downturns showing that companies who did this took five times as long to recover, and spent far more to regain lost ground, than firms who kept up their promotional spend.

Retail industry speakers echoed this upbeat assessment from their own experience – and the consensus was that seafood price was not a differentiator, but added value and ethical sourcing were important – but consumers expected ‘green’ credentials while not wanting to pay more for them. Speakers from the UK, France, Germany and Norway all reported modest uplifts in seafood sales – “No boom, therefore no bust”.

The overall mood of seafood bosses after the session was summed up by Foodvest’s Mike Parker: “The value of this conference is that you can find out that your own experience of the market is shared by others, which gives comfort.” Peter Hajpieris of Birds Eye/Iglo had a pithier summary: “I’d rather be selling fish fingers than cars right now!”

The Fisheries Management Summit

Following a packed and lively delegate party, the Forum moved into day two with a variety of parallel sessions from which delegates could choose. A Fisheries Management Summit, looking at prospects for the North Atlantic fishery over the next decade, was of great interest as the retreat of the ice opens up new fishing grounds and the attendant problems of controlling the effort there, in international waters.

In the Whitefish segment, delegates were very interested to hear about the remarkable market ‘invasion’ of Vietnamese Pangasius. With aquaculture now accounting for all seafood growth, some 15 million tonnes worldwide, Pangasius has a potential of 3.2 million tons in 2010, with Tilapia coming up close behind, the conference heard.

The Pelagic Summit

As the Pelagic Summit opened, two other major conference events were in full swing in other rooms; the Seafood Corporate Finance Seminar was a ‘Who’s Who’ of Norways top industry CEO’s and their bankers, while the new ‘MareLife’ Innovation Workshop presented a range of case studies at the interface of science and commerce – how technical advances can help the industry to improve its performance, sustainability and profitability in many ways.

As delegates left Oslo to return to their worldwide businesses, the mood was one of optimism, and maybe relief. Swimming in a sea of dire financial publicity, it was clear that seafood is not going to be among the victims of this downturn. Jurgen Pauly of German retailer Globus: “After two interesting days with lots of intensive discussions, I am strengthened in my belief that the financial crisis will not have a big impact on European retail fish sales. That alone was worth the journey!”

the Fish Site Editor

Learn more
Sponsored content