Road to Brussels: Talk of the town
By Steven Hedlund, SeafoodSource editor
12 April, 2011
Last year, Iceland’s irritable Eyjafjallajokull volcano was the talk of the European Seafood Exposition. The ash plume that blanketed northern Europe bottlenecked seafood distribution and threatened the three-day event. However, by late April, the ash plume had dissipated, and the show went off without a hitch.
This year, another natural occurrence is dominating the news, but this one is far more catastrophic. March’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which killed at least 13,000 people, has paralyzed the world’s No. 1 single seafood market. The tragedy in Japan will surely be on everyone’s mind at the 19th annual European Seafood Exposition, which opens in Brussels, Belgium, on 3 May.
Here’s a list of what I expect to be the five most talked about topics of this year’s three-day event:
Editor’s note: I welcome your suggestions. E-mail email@example.com or send a tweet to @seafoodsource, and I’ll add your suggestions to my list. Or enter your thoughts into the “Comments & Ratings” space toward the bottom of this page.
5) The Seafood Prix d’Elite new products competition is a highlight of the European Seafood Exposition year after year, and 2011 is no different. This year, 43 finalists representing 14 countries — including four of last year’s six winners — Dish Hospitality, Heiploeg Group, Seachill (Icelandic Group) and Highland Farms — are vying for one of seven prizes. Who will come out on top? The winners of the 11th annual contest will be unveiled in Hall 2 of the Brussels Exhibition & Conference Centre on 3 May.
4) Just how high can farmed salmon prices go? Is there no ceiling? According to the Norwegian Seafood Export Council, fresh whole Norwegian salmon averaged NOK 40.26 per kilogram in the first quarter of 2011, up an astounding NOK 7.10 from the same period last year. However, Norwegian salmon exports slipped 2 percent, to 177,000 metric tons, in the first quarter of 2011, perhaps a sign that high prices are finally meeting resistance. The dark horse remains Chile, which is well on the road to recovery from its infectious salmon anemia outbreak. If Chilean production bounces back quicker than expected, what will come of high farmed salmon prices?
3) It’s hard to identify a species that’s experienced more ups and downs recently than pangasius. Once the darling of the whitefish world, Vietnam’s pangasius industry is struggling right now, whether it’s sky-high production costs forcing farmers out of business or environmental NGOs trashing the species’ reputation. SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Mike Urch illustrates the difficulty well in Monday’s commentary “For pangasius, the squeeze is on.”
2) It’s the elephant in the room. Two-thirds of the world’s middle class will live in Asia by 2013. No longer primarily seafood producers, India, Thailand and especially China are increasingly seafood consumers. Meeting — and competing with — the growing demand for seafood in Asia was talk of last month’s International Boston Seafood Show, and it will also be a big topic at next month’s European Seafood Exposition.
1) As previously noted, the crisis in Japan is on everyone’s mind. It’s been only a month since a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and 500-mph tsunami rocked Japan, wiping out fisheries in the country’s northeast region and crippling its fragile economy. (Don’t miss SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Jason Holland’s 1 April commentary “Japanese seafood unhinged by contamination fears.”) A lot of questions remain unanswered: How much imported seafood will Japan require to replace domestic production? Will seafood demand and prices rebound at Tokyo’s Tsukiji wholesale fish market? Will consumers avoid eating Japanese-caught seafood, or even Pacific seafood in general, due to radiation fears? These are questions you’ll hear often in halls and aisles of the Brussels Exhibition & Conference Centre.
So what do SeafoodSource readers expect to be the most talked about topics of the 2011 European Seafood Exposition?
Wild Albacore Tuna/Western Fishboat Owners Association, via Twitter: Impact of Japan tsunami on highly migratory species, other species.
12 April, 2011