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Potential changes in EU whitefish markets, towards more sustainability

25 March 2012

In its February issue, Globefish reports that imports of Nile perch are in decline. In 2010, Nile perch was the second most imported freshwater fish into the EU, after pangasius, but it has become more expensive for EU importers in 2011 because of the reduction in supply. This may lead to changes in whitefish markets in the EU: in particular, tilapia producers will be looking for opportunities to enter this market segment.

Pangasius is still the most popular white fish on EU markets, but Globefish also highlights the fact that the Spanish Association of Marine Aquaculture Producers, Apromar, says that aquaculture in Spain is increasingly affected by pressure from farmed white-fish imports, such as pangasius, and denounced the unfair competition from the import of animal products, including seafood, fed with feed that was banned in the EU. Globefish emphasises that ‘recently, imports from countries where sanitary or labour requirements are less demanding than those of the EU have also been criticised’. This also concerns ACP countries: in Uganda, three red alerts, resulting from the poor quality of the fish exported, have been raised. The EU has threatened to ban fish from that country.

Globefish argues that African countries will increasingly need to show that they comply with high quality and sustainability standards, both for Nile perch and pangasius, if they want to maintain their shares in key markets like the EU. Some producers, processors and exporters are already addressing this issue, and moving from quantity to quality production.

Editorial comment

ACP exporters need to be aware of the increasing interest amongst European consumers for products from environmentally sustainable and socially just sources. This is both driven by policy makers and NGOs, and by the consumers themselves. There is increasing pressure on white-fish traders and retailers to ensure that the products being traded are from such sources, and on policy makers to ensure that there is a level playing field in the market for EU white-fish products and imported products. Therefore, it is important that ACP white-fish producers and exporters to the EU market consider market strategies based on quality products rather than quantity. Nowhere is this more relevant than for products such as Nile perch and tilapia which face increasing competition on EU markets due to low-cost high volume imports such as pangasius.


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