As part of a trade mission, led by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr. Simon Coveney, T.D. and organised by Bord Bia, BIM are accompanying 12 seafood companies to promote Irish seafood to key buyers at the China Seafood Expo in Quigdao this week.
With Irish Seafood exports to China (including Hong Kong) increasing by 34% year on year to August 2014, China has become an increasingly important market for Irish seafood in recent years. Urbanisation and a growing middle class with disposable income is paving the way for a strong demand for safe, healthy and imported seafood and Irish seafood, in particular, meets this demand. In 2013, China’s seafood imports reached €6.8 billion, an increase of nearly 10% on the previous year. With consumption of seafood currently recorded at 33 kilos per capita, there is huge potential for the Irish Seafood Sector in this market.
An exciting new opportunity that demonstrates this potential is Boarfish. A high quota species with a total allowable catch for 2014 of 127,509 tonnes; the species was traditionally considered a nuisance by Irish fishermen as their spiny fin would damage target fish species. However, in recent years, BIM has worked closely with industry to trial this substantial raw material for human consumption. This is not without its challenges as this small, spiny fish cannot be processed using conventional processing equipment due to its unusual shape. In addition, given that boarfish has never been marketed for human consumption, detailed trials had to be carried out to establish its taste and nutritional profiles. The results of the trials were extremely positive and confirmed the fish has a firm texture and taste similar to flat fish e.g. plaice or sole. It also has the added benefit of being high in heart healthy Omega 3. To enable effective processing of boarfish, BIM has invested more than €600,000 in the development of bespoke processing technology to allow the production of headed and gutted and minced product formats. This new technology will produce product formats that will demand a higher value on the Chinese market. BIM’s Seafood Development Centre has also developed a range of recipes specifically targeting Chinese consumer tastes including Homemade Boarfish Dumplings and Boarfish and lettuce soup. BIM will be presenting all of these concepts to key Chinese partners at the China Seafood Expo.
In addition to researching new opportunities, BIM has also worked closely with industry to build scale and develop joint ventures that will best capitalise on this growing but large market in order to compete effectively. In comparison to traditional markets for Irish seafood such as Germany and France, China can be a difficult market to penetrate due its size leading to difficulty in accessing suppliers which leads to a lack of feedback on products and little direction on pricing. Forming collectives allows Irish seafood companies to share resources to build a greater presence on the market and make an impact. There are three Irish Collective groups currently operating in China with further assistance in terms of on the ground market support from Bord Bia. The companies are developing strong brands and export a range of crab, prawn, razor clams as well as smoked salmon and pelagic fish. Since forming in 2012, the Collectives have experienced an increase in export sales worth over €6 million. On top of the existing demand for live shellfish, the Collectives will be presenting a range of branded packed products to penetrate the growing retail and food service channels The three collectives are Ocean Jade (Sofrimar, Shellfish de la Mer, Carrs and McBride Fishing Ltd.); Atlantic Gold (Rockabill Shellfish and Atlanfish) and Errigal/CKI (a merger between Errigal Seafood and Kilmore Fish Company)
Donal Buckley, BIM’s Director of Business Development & Innovation explained how Irish seafood can take advantage of this market; ‘While China is the fastest growing market for Irish seafood, the challenge is to continually seek out profitable niches where we can differentiate our seafood from larger American and Asian competitors. The new boarfish formats and high end crab products are developed specifically for Chinese tastes and we look forward to a positive reaction from Chinese partners at the China SeafoodExpo’
Download our Boarfish Leaflet (pdf 1,725Kb)