By Chris Dove, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Malaga, Spain
Published on 04 October, 2012
The standoff between Spanish and Chilean canned and frozen mussel producers goes on. The Regulatory Council of Galician Mussels welcomed European Union subsidies to shore up prices in the face of massive imports from Chile, making producers eligible for funds for mussel storage facilities if prices fall sharply, reducing their incomes.
The EU’s elimination of tariffs on frozen mussels from Chile is said to be the root cause of the collapse of Galicia’s mussel industry.
Observers predict further losses in the Galician industry, acknowledging the positive effects that the absence of marine biotoxins this summer should have for the canning sector.
European Parliament proposals to remove the designation of species and country of origin on canned labels “compromises the viability of the mussel sector, Galician seafood in general, while damaging consumer interests,” said Francisco Alcalde, Regulatory Council president.
“In the case of mussels, we’ve spent years suffering unfair competition from deceptively mislabeled foreign products taking advantage of the prestige and reputation acquired by the Mexillón de Galicia with irregular references to the source. Now these practices could be legalized,” Alcalde asserted. “Consumers have the right to know what species a can contains and its origin to avoid confusion and fraud.”
The labeling proposal is not yet finalized, as it needs approval from the European Union Council of Ministers.
Mussels’ provenance and quality was the subject of a recent study by Barcelona’s Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology and Catalan competition agency, ACC1Ó.
Finding that “Galician mussels are well-positioned, but not mussels originating from Holland,” the team explored taste preferences for Catalonian mussels.
Product presentation was the most valued attribute due to the wide availability and popularity of fresh produce, while frozen mussels were least preferred and consumers unwilling to pay high prices.
The Union of Fish Retailers at Barcelona's central fish market, Mercabarna, aims to increase mussel sales by 20 percent this year, recovering traditional Catalan mussel recipes. Mercabarna sells 2,600 metric tons of mussels annually.