Seafood industry on an upswing
Adding value is the theme of next week’s near sellout Seafood NZ conference in Wellington.
While dairy is plummeting and the rock star economy is hitting the odd bum note, the seafood sector is buoyant.
Exports have been relatively static at around $1.5 billion over the past five years and average unit value across the sector has risen by only 5 per cent – from $5 per kilogram to $5.25.
But there are some fair winds.
Those exports comprise a large number of species and range of products and there is an equally wide range in value and volume.
Rock lobster is the rock star, touching $147 a kilo in China this year at its height, but no product is exported at both high unit value and in high volume.
The challenge is to add value to relatively static volumes.
The industry is not advocating catching significantly more fish – the focus is on sustainability.
The Quota Management System, 30 years old next year, has protected our fish stocks and we are seeing recovery in stocks that were overfished, orange roughy for instance.
That good news story will be backed up by Dr Pamela Mace, principal advisor fisheries science for the Ministry for Primary Industries, when she delivers her annual “state of the nation” fish stocks review at the SNZ conference.
Dr Susan Marshall, science group leader, seafood processing and marine products at Plant and Food Research, will look beyond fish fillets to transforming fish processing to deliver high returns and new business opportunities.
A leader in another field, Suzanne Snively, chair of Transparency International New Zealand, will argue we should be leveraging off our international reputation for trust and honesty.
Kylie Power and Emma Bettle, creators of the Ministry of Done (as in getting things done), will update their work in changing perceptions about fishing in the classroom, a vital antidote to the apocalypse industry that paints fishers as plunderers.
Graeme Sinclair, our Gone Fishin’ ambassador and a helluva good bloke, and New Zealand Fishing News editor Grant Dixon will give their prescriptions for building bridges between the commercial and recreational sectors in a shared fishery.
Chuck in Ian Proudfoot, global head of agribusiness at KPMG, on positioning seafood as premium protein; Dr Peter Stevens, GS1 New Zealand chief executive on building traceability and trust; Lincoln University’s Professor Caroline Saunders and Professor Paul Dalziel on consumer behaviour; ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie on the economic landscape; our own executive chairman George Clement on attaining the double export goal; MPI Minister Nathan Guy with a Government perspective and answers to our questions; Precision Seafood Harvesting chief executive Dave Woods on the trawling revolution; the Hon Shane Jones, Pacific Ambassador, fishing leader and raconteur on fishing and economic development challenges in the Pacific and targeting foreign aid; and Sir Colin Meads on building a winning team – and it is no wonder the conference is seen as a must attend event.
The evening reception and seafood banquet, with the added bonus this year of a fresh oyster stand teamed with Tuatara beers, will round out a packed day.
The conference is aligned with seafood’s focus on the Government’s Business Growth Agenda, the ambitious target of doubling exports by 2025.
Aquaculture offers perhaps the greatest potential but is constrained by access to water space. A hectare of marine space devoted to the high value quinnat salmon, marketed as king salmon, potentially returns $20 million per year. If the country was serious about maximising its exports it would open up the cold Fiordland waters for large scale salmon farming but it is hard enough to gain approval off scrubby Marlborough Sounds headlands despoiled by pine trees.
The worldwide demand for seafood is growing.
Annual seafood consumption per capita in China is predicted to grow from the current already high 33kg to 41kg by 2030. And there will be a lot more Chinese by then as well.
A global survey by the research company Nielsen also has encouraging results for seafood.
The Nielsen Global Health and Wellness Survey of 30,000 respondents across 60 countries found half believed they are overweight and the same percentage are trying to lose weight.
Consumers are seeking fresh, natural and minimally processed foods. Seafood is a perfect fit.
One quarter plan to buy more seafood and those in emerging markets in particular are prepared to pay a premium for more healthy food.
That willingness is higher in Latin America (94 per cent) and our most important market of Asia-Pacific (93 per cent) and slightly less so in North America (80 per cent) and Europe (79 per cent).
In this country we are blessed with any number of healthy fish options.
The hoki season is in full swing and this week fresh fillets are on sale for as low as $10/kg.
Healthy eating does not have to be expensive.