The year that was in seafood
A full on year ended on a positive note with the release of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ situation and outlook.
Seafood was among the primary sectors to stand out, with sharp increases forecast in export revenue.
The $1.563billion actual in 2014-15 is forecast to increase by $181million in the current year – an 11.6 percent lift – although depreciation of the New Zealand dollar rather than improved production and prices is a key driver.
That would take export returns to $1.744billion and a further forecast rise of $115million (6.6 percent) in 2016-17 would push seafood close to $2billion.
Overall, growth in other main sectors – meat and wool, horticulture and forestry – will more than offset the fall in dairy products.
On seafood, the MPI commentary predicts strong demand for premium seafood in China, our largest market.
“China’s middle class may surge to 1 billion people by 2030 from about 150 million in 2014, boosting incomes that will drive demand for all kinds of higher value foods, including premium seafood. The rise of e-commerce provides the ability to purchase seafood directly online. The fastest transaction only took 33 hours from the order to the customers receiving product. Lobsters provide an example of this growth. Lobsters are viewed as a status symbol in China and their red colour is considered lucky.”
Mussels and king salmon, with two new farms each of production capacity of 1500 tonnes becoming operational, are seen as drivers of increased aquaculture production, helping offset a 3 percent reduction in wild catch limits.
Global trends and consumer market dynamics for our top four export markets are mixed.
*China’s growth has slowed but remains strong.
*Lower commodity prices and declining unemployment are supporting growth in the US.
*Declining oil prices and an economic stimulus programme are expected to aid a return to positive growth in Japan.
*Low commodity prices are a headwind for growth in the Australian economy.
Minister Nathan Guy said the primary sector had “a pretty good year” and noted the seafood result in a presentation last week to sector leaders.
He had just returned from the Aotearoa Fisheries factory opening on the Chathams, supplied with the biggest crayfish he had seen in his life, which even got a mention from the Prime Minister in Parliament.
Politicians are not usually shy in trumpeting their achievements but on this occasion Mr Guy could be accused of being unduly modest.
The government is committed to doubling exports by 2025, a vital vision for a remote trading nations that depends on what it can sell to the world for its prosperity.
The projections are optimistic and may prove as difficult as a budget surplus to corral.
On current projections the gap is $6.5billion, challenging but not insurmountable, particularly with the potential of e-commerce as instant export channels and any rebound in dairy.
When Chinese consumers discuss New Zealand online, the main factor (70 percent) is food.
Mr Guy noted the importance of social licence, witnessed by the damaging footage of terrible treatment of bobby calves that led to calls for an international boycott of our meat and dairy.
Consumers increasingly want assurance the products they buy are ethically produced.
The fact New Zealand seafood is sustainably produced was confirmed in the Environment Aotearoa report released in October.
“Our commercial fisheries are sustainably managed and overfishing is decreasing,” it said.
“In 2014 the proportion of fish caught (landings) from stocks subject to overfishing was less than 5 percent. This is a decrease from about 10 percent in 2009-10.”
Mr Guy noted those assembled at the Wellington Club to hear his upbeat update were livelier than the Press Gallery journalists, who held their annual party for politicians the night before.
He had visited the Gallery that afternoon handing out licorice samples from the RJs factory at Levin in his Otaki electorate and found one of the nation’s finest political minds having a hangover-induced snooze.
But it has been a big year and everyone is tired.
Early next year we will report on a Seafood NZ-commissioned Nielsen survey of 1000 New Zealanders on fishing industry reputation, currently being compiled, which is expected to bring more positive news.
*This is the last Friday Update for the year. Happy holidays and good fishing to you all.
This weekly digest from the world of seafood returns on Jan 22, 2016, a year in which we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Quota Management System that has served us well.