In its May 2012 canned-tuna market report, Globefish highlights that ‘So far Asian packers seem to be able to absorb the higher price, but European packers and buyers operating in the Eurozone are having a more difficult time as a result of the weakening euro against the US dollar’.
Despite increasing prices, imports of canned tuna in Europe grew in 2011, and Thailand, now the number one canned-tuna supplier to the EU, followed by Ecuador, managed to increase its exports to the EU by almost 25%.
The report also highlights the recent MSC eco-labelling of PNA purse-seine fishing operations targeting free schools of skipjack tuna. However, if interest for sustainable products continues to grow, particularly in the UK and German markets, ‘It remains to be seen whether consumers are ready to pay more for eco-labelled products under current economic uncertainties, or whether retailers will start requiring eco-labelling for all their supplies.’
Another issue which was addressed at the end of April 2012 concerning the PNA purse seine skipjack fishery was the fact that the chain of custody also needed to be certified before MSC labeled skipjack could be traded, i.e. that a system needs to be established which would guarantee that caught skipjack meeting the sustainability criteria is kept separate from any other catch, from the moment of catch to the final consumer. Pacifical, the organisation promoting this fishery, informed that: ‘We hope that by April 2012 we get green light from MSC that not only our skipjack stock is healthy, and our methods are sustainable, but also the way we distribute from boat to shelf is 100% reliable and fully traceable’.
Costs for canned-tuna producers, including from ACP countries, are likely to continue to increase as raw material becomes scarcer, either as a consequence of stricter management measures or, in some cases, due to over-exploitation of the resources. On the other hand, ecological sustainability is likely to become a standard for all fish products sold on EU markets, independently of whether EU consumers are ready to pay more for such products. It will be important to see how Thailand, often described as lax in terms of production conditions, will respond to such increases in production standards, and whether canneries/loining plants located in ACP countries will be able to develop their tuna production according to these standards in order to maintain or increase their market shares in EU markets.