IRELAND - Following a meeting with Chinese Vice Minister Niu Dun who has responsibility for Fisheries, the Minister for Agriculture Food & the Marine Simon Coveney T.D. opened the largest ever Irish pavilion at the China Seafood & Fisheries Expo which takes place in Qingdao this week.
Speaking at the event Minister Coveney said: “Ireland has some of the finest seafood in the world, with a superior offering that is sustainably harvested from the pure, clean waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Business development and trade show events such as these are invaluable in building awareness of our high quality produce to an influential, targeted trade audience. China continues to be a growing market for Irish seafood and with exports increasing by over 300 per cent since 2011 to reach €18 million in 2013. This strong trend in Irish exports to the region is continuing in 2014 with sales for the first 6 months up 56 per cent compared to the same period last year.”
Organised by Bord Bia, Ireland’s stand, the largest ever at the Expo, will include representatives from a record eleven Irish seafood companies. The Expo which runs from November 5–7 is the largest trade show in China with in excess of 25,000 visitors expected from over 100 countries.
In 2013, China's seafood trade surpassed €20 billion in value, cementing its position as the world's leading seafood trading country. Growing incomes and increased urbanisation have helped fuel a massive growth in demand for imported seafood. China currently accounts for one-quarter of the world’s seafood consumption and the United Nation’s FAO projects that China will need an extra 16 million tonnes of seafood by 2020 to meet growing demand.
Minister Coveney continued: “The strong Irish representation from both the pelagic and shellfish sectors in Qingdao today demonstrates the commitment of both industry and government to deepen ties and strengthen relationships with our Chinese customers.”
Traditionally, the Chinese market has been important for the Irish seafood industry predominantly for the sale of pelagic species. However, in the last 3 years, significant effort has been invested by Irish processors and Bord Bia to identify and develop opportunities for premium shellfish in this growing market for seafood, notably for shellfish such as live and processed brown crab, langoustines, scallops and razor fish.
Aidan Cotter, Chief Executive, Bord Bia said: “The strong and sustained growth in exports in recent years demonstrates the continued success of Ireland’s leading shellfish processors in penetrating this valuable market. Exports of shellfish to China, for example, increased in value by over 200 per cent between 2012 and 2013, while exports to Hong Kong increased by 117 per cent during the same period. Bord Bia has ambitious plans to further grow the share of Irish seafood into China and has a number of programmes in place to assist Irish seafood processors in identifying, profiling and targeting new customers that are willing to pay a premium for quality seafood from Ireland.”
Through its trade development programme, Bord Bia has been very successful in encouraging high-end retail and foodservice Chinese customers to visit Ireland to meet with Irish seafood processors on a one to one basis. These itineraries have been very effective in generating new business for the sector, providing Irish companies with an excellent opportunity to showcase their processing facilities and also allowing the customers to see first hand the world-class envirnonment in which Irish seafood is produced. These visits can provide a guarantee to Chinese customers on traceability, sustainability and food safety, all key issues of growing concern to the Chinese consumer.
“Irish seafood has enjoyed ongoing and increasing market access to China. International trade in food is based upon a reciprocated trust in food safety systems. The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, as regulator, verifies the safety and sustainability of Irish seafood and we welcome this Chinese confidence in the robustness of the assurance systems we implement,” said Dr Susan Steele, Chair, SFPA.
During the last three years, Bord Bia has welcomed more than 25 Asian customers to Ireland on customised itineraries. Many of these visits have delivered new business for Irish seafood processors and in March 2015, as part of its Marketplace International event, Bord Bia will host an additional 17 Asian customers on a visit to Ireland. The buyers will meet with Ireland’s leading seafood processors and Bord Bia has set a target of securing €7 million worth of new business for the seafood sector arising from this event. In September 2013, over €4 million worth of new business was secured with a range of Asian seafood customers who travelled to Ireland to attend Bord Bia’s Global Sustainability Conference.
In 2014, Bord Bia has also worked closely with the Irish industry to assist with the launch of boarfish into the Chinese market. Benefitting from a very substantial quota of 88,000 tonnes, Bord Bia has undertaken trade research and promotions in the Chinese market to identify customers for this new species and to educate the trade and consumers on Boarfish and its unique selling points (USPs).
Irish boarfish debuted to an audience of key Chinese buyers at last year’s China Seafood and Fisheries Expo. A Bord Bia coordinated boarfish seminar and tasting event showcasing the various formats for both foodservice and retail was held at the Expo to raise awareness and generate feedback as to what Chinese buyers thought of the product.
Chinese consumers are increasingly demanding safe, healthy, premium imported seafood and the potential for boarfish in this market is very strong. Sales are slowly building in the supermarket, online and snack food sectors, and to date, over 250 tonnes have been exported to China. This is expected to increase significantly in 2015 as momentum grows and awareness builds in the market.
Plans for 2015 and beyond
In 2015, to build on the momentim and futher increase exports of premium Irish seafood to China, Bord Bia will concentrate its promotional efforts on increasing awareness of new species from Ireland such as brown crab and Irish prawns. Targeting premium chefs, media and key opininon formers, Bord Bia will coordinate a series of cookery demonstrations in Beijing and Shanghai, focusing on introducing recipes for these species that are new to the Chinese market.
The campaign will assist the Irish processing sector to sell in their ranges to distributors servicing the premium restaurants and hotels in these two key locations. In addition, Chinese consumers will be educated and informed through a comprehensive programme of in-store tastings with a number of supermarket retail chains.
TheFishSite News Desk