The European Fish Processors and Traders Association (AIPCE–CEP) published their annual Finfish Study in December 2013. It shows that the total supply to the EU, in 2012, decreased by 3%, to reach 13.7 million tonnes. Fish consumption dropped by almost 4% in 2012, the lowest level since the formation of the EU25. Exports have decreased by 13.7% to 1.870 million tonnes. The reliance on fish imports has remained stable, at just over 64% (8.8 million tonnes).
AIPCE warns that competition for fish and seafood is now global. Markets such as China continue to expand, and export less because of a growing internal demand. New markets, like Brazil, are not yet fully developed: “In the long term we must be mindful that the improvement of income and living standards in these countries will likely result in increased fish consumption and the competition for fish will intensify as the right products establish themselves in the markets.”
Tuna has become the top species consumed, and cod is the favourite whitefish. It is underlined that a significant part of tuna is caught by EU vessels landing tuna for processing and canning in third countries’ local processing units before the products are exported to the EU. The EU canning industry (mainly Spain and Italy) increasingly relies on imports of frozen tuna (whole and fillets) as its raw material.
The report concludes that “imports are the backbone of the EU processing industry. In the context of a complex regulatory environment … a successful market for fish and seafood in the EU is best served by having a vibrant and sustainable fishing sector in the EU and in parallel to allowing the use of well-managed resources from all around the world.”
The annual AIPCE study provides useful information and analysis relevant to ACP countries about the state of affairs of the EU fish markets and fish trade, and issues arising. Recently the topic of emerging new markets (like Brazil) and the growing internal demand in China has been raised. ACP countries should analyse the possibilities to take advantage of the emerging markets and diversify their clients, which, like China, can provide not only new markets but also new sources of finance and technology. A matter regarding some emerging economies (e.g. China and Korea) is that they are pushing for access to ACP fish resource-rich countries. ACP countries may then be placed in a difficult situation, where trade concessions for such access could be linked to the granting of access to these emerging economies’ fishing fleets.
Over the last decade, ACP fish exporting countries have been investing heavily in fish production systems, to enable them to comply with the increasingly stringent standards (SPS, IUU, etc.) of their main client – the EU. ACP countries should capitalise on these systems and investigate how to serve the top segment of the emerging economies’ fish markets, and their growing middle class, without undermining resource sustainability. Targeting foreign emerging markets should be complemented by the development of regional ACP fish markets – another important diversification opportunity. Having better regional integration will also contribute to reinforce the ACP voice within the WTO, where topics such as trade preferences are discussed with current partners and emerging economies’ partners.