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Tuna demand grows in crisis-stricken eurozone despite higher prices

27 August 2012

According to Globefish market reports the volume of world tuna catches did not grow in the first quarter of 2012. This led to a sharp rise in tuna raw material prices. But despite the increasing prices, imports of canned tuna into the eurozone, stricken by the financial crisis, showed growth, – up by more than 20% in value and about 5% in volume.

Concerning canned tuna imports, Ecuador has now become one of the main suppliers in key markets like Germany and the UK. ACP imports are supplying lower amounts – for example in Germany, canned tuna imports from Papua New Guinea declined by over 25%. African countries also supplied lower amounts of canned tuna to the UK market. In France, the main supplier has become Spain, followed at some distance by Côte d’Ivoire and the Seychelles. One of the reasons for the Spanish success was the successful promotion of their high-end canned tuna products in European markets.

The latest FFA Fisheries Trade News also comments on how high raw material prices are impacting on the global tuna sector. High prices for tuna catches have benefited fishing fleets, which have been hard hit in recent years by the high cost of fuel. In the Pacific context, ‘this has also benefited the PNA [Parties to the Nauru Agreement] countries in their negotiations with fishing interests over the value of fishing days under the Vessel Day Scheme’. On the contrary, processors are increasingly concerned about the high cost of tuna raw material, in a context in which many consumers may be reluctant to pay much more for their tuna cans.

On this issue, FFA Fisheries Trade News concludes that ‘the mismatch between processing capacity and resource availability remains a concern in the sector. Such concern is intensifying as new plants come online, investments are promised in the Pacific region, potential processing capacity in emerging economies looms large, and the industry notes that fish from the WCPO [Western and Central Pacific Ocean] is at times transported to the Eastern Pacific to stave off supply shortages in the Latin American processing facilities’. 

Editorial comment

Given the state of exploitation of some tuna stocks, and the measures increasingly taken by tuna regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) and other regional bodies to limit access to tuna resources, it is likely that the tuna industry will have to face a decreasing quantity of raw material. With declining catches, rising raw material prices, high costs of fuel, the days of canned tuna as a cheap product could be over. However, issues arising for ACP countries will be of a different nature, depending notably on whether priority is given to selling access to their tuna resources or to developing local processing for export on international markets, particularly the EU market. In the first case, high prices for raw material may benefit ACP coastal states, when it comes to negotiations with fishing companies or distant-water fishing nations on the price for access to their fishing resources. In the second case, in order to improve margins for ACP processors, investments in value-addition and quality will be required. Given the fact that increasing attention is given to environmental production criteria in Europe, ACP countries should also study the possibility of promoting more ‘environmentally friendly’ tuna products, for example from pole-and-line caught tuna and non-FAD fishing.


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