Blog: Live from Hong Kong, Day 1

By

Steven Hedlund

Published on
September 4, 2011

Editor’s note: Check SeafoodSource regularly for updates from the second annual Asian Seafood Exposition, which runs through Thursday. SeafoodSource Editor Steven Hedlund will report and blog from the three-day event, which takes place at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Center. 

8:30 a.m. — I’m settling in at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Center. Exhibitors are beginning to arrive, putting the finishing touches on their stands. There are about 150 companies from around the world exhibiting this year. The show’s grown significantly since its debut last year. There are eight new exhibiting countries — Ecuador, France, Italy, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Turkey and Uruguay. And there are 14 country pavilions — China, the Philippines, Malaysia, United States, Korea, India, Peru, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Russia and Australia.

The doors open in 90 minutes. If you’re at the show, please feel free to stop by the exhibit sales lounge and say hello. It’s stand No. 5-413, next to the key buyer lounge and culinary demonstration area.

Also, check the SeafoodSource Facebook page for photos from the show floor.

9:05 a.m. — Last night I had the pleasure of attending a reception put on by the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC), held at the Harbour Grand Hong Kong and attended by about 50 people. The guest speaker was Timothy Broderick, executive chef of Great Food Hall, which is part of A.S. Watson Group. Owned by Hong Kong-based Hutchison Wampoa Ltd., A.S. Watson Group is one of Asia’s largest retailers, operating more than 9,500 outlets in 30 countries worldwide. In addition to the high-end Great Food Hall, its banners include Park ‘n Shop supermarkets and Taste food gallerias.

Broderick talked about the importance of selling quality seafood and country recognition, including Western Australia’s reputation for quality product. He also spoke of his company’s rapid growth and seafood’s role in that.

10 a.m. — Show’s open. Visitors are making their way to the fifth floor of the building and onto the show floor, which is open through 6 p.m. today. Restaurant & Bar Hong Kong, which is co-located with the Asian Seafood Exposition, doesn’t open until noon.

11:10 a.m. — The first round of the Lobster Chef of the Year competition kicked off at the culinary demonstration area. Sponsored by Shucks Maine Lobster of Richmond, Maine, the cook-off features five chefs, who must use Raw Whole Shucked Maine Lobster from Shucks in their dishes. Andrew Lee, 35, executive chef at Hong Kong Century, part of Hong Kong-based Novotel Hotels, lead off the competition. His dish is Poached Lobster with Red Rice Fish Broth, which he has 45 minutes to prepare and then present to the three judges. It’s a new dish for Lee, who said he enjoys cook-offs. “I like the pressure of a competition,” he said.

There is one more round today, and three more rounds tomorrow. Daniel Tam, executive sous chef at Aqua Restaurant Group, competes later today. The winner will be announced at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The judges are Adele Wong, dining and lifestyle editor at HK magazine in Hong Kong; Tracy Griffith, corporate executive chef of New Gem Foods in Stockton, Calif.; and Stephanie Nadeau, president of The Lobster Co. in Kennebunkport, Maine.

11:45 a.m. — Just over a month after its debut at Tokyo’s Japan International Seafood and Technology Expo, Prime New Zealand retail-packed smoked salmon slices — made with New Zealand king salmon processed in the city of General Santos, Philippines — was on display here in Hong Kong. Matthew Hewitt, international business development manager for Big Glory Bay, a subsidiary of Alliance Select Foods International, talked about the competitive smoked-salmon market. Focusing on retail, said Hewitt, allows the company to more easily distinguish itself, which is particularly important since king salmon is a high-end product. “You lose that identity in foodservice,” he said.

12:30 p.m. — Times are pretty good for Oregon Dungeness crab. The state’s 2010-11 season wrapped up recently, and the USD 52.9 million catch was the second most valuable catch on record, trailing only the 2004-05 season. Consistent availability has allowed the industry to expand in terms of product forms and new markets, explained Nick Furman, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission.

As Asia’s middle class explodes, sales of Oregon Dungeness crab, and U.S. product in general, are growing in mainland China as well as Hong Kong and Macau, said Furman. The U.S. Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) brought the seafood buyer of a major Chinese supermarket chain by the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission stand, and the buyer showed interest in whole cooked product, he noted. “You can’t just rely on the traditional, regional West Coast market anymore,” said Furman.

1:30 p.m. — The Japanese Pavilion was teeming with reporters and cameramen, as the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) of Japan hosted a media event — the first such media event organized by the ministry since the 11 March earthquake and tsunami devastated northeast Japan. The event featured Michael Lam, Hong Kong’s “Young Gourmet,” and Takuya Watanuki, a renowned culinary expert, who cooked up a variety of dishes featuring Japanese seafood.

Hong Kong is the No. 1 importer of Japanese seafood, in terms of value. Last year, Hong Kong brought in JPY 121 billion of Japanese seafood and agricultural products, about one-quarter of the total. “As we try to regain foothold in the global food export market, we are heartened to know that we are making our first step to recovery right in Hong Kong, the world’s No. 1 buyer of Japanese seafood products,” said MAFF in a prepared statement. Nine companies are exhibiting in the Japanese Pavilion.

Prior to the event, I chatted with Koji Nanbu, deputy director of MAFF’s export promotion division, food industry affairs bureau. He is one of three officials participating in Wednesday’s conference on Japanese seafood, which I’ll be covering.

3:45 p.m. — Will shrimp prices go the way of salmon prices? Probably not. Though there’s been some resistance to higher shrimp prices as of late, demand in key markets such as the United States and the European Union remains strong. Margins, however, are getting tighter and tighter, said Arthon Piboonthanapatana, assistant managing director of Thailand’s Narong Seafood Co. Ltd., which exports value-added shrimp products primarily to the U.S. market, and secretary general of the Thai Frozen Food Association. The company is trying to grow its shrimp sales in Hong Kong and mainland China markets.

3:55 p.m. — Speaking of price resistance, it’s been a tough road for tilapia over the past two to three years, as inclement weather in China has taken its toll on production and driven up prices. Chinese tilapia is beginning to see more competition from pangasius from Vietnam in the U.S. and EU markets, said Lee Shu Guang, trade manager at Guangdong Evergreen Group Co. Ltd., one of several Chinese companies exhibiting at the Asian Seafood Exposition. The company exports frozen tilapia primarily to the U.S. market.

“Prices have been higher year after year,” he said. “It’s been difficult.”

5:45 p.m. — Day 1 of the Asian Seafood Exposition is winding down. It’s been a busy day. I just caught up with Mary Larkin, VP of seafood expositions for show organizer Diversified Business Communications. “It’s been steady all day,” she said. “Hong Kong is a great place for a seafood exposition.” According to Larkin, the event grew 45 percent from last year, in terms of exhibition space.

Check back tomorrow for updates from Day 2 of the Asian Seafood Exposition.

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