French surimi market maturing

By

Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
November 8, 2009

After 20 years of steady growth, the French surimi seafood market is showing signs of maturity, with 2008 sales dipping from the highs of previous years.

In terms of volume, ready-to-eat surimi seafood sales shrunk 4.3 percent to 49,500 metric tons in 2008 from the historic high of 52,200 metric tons in 2006, reports French food industry association Adepale.

French production of surimi-based products slipped 4 percent from 44,900 metric tons in 2007 to 43,100 tons last year.

Further compounding the impact of a tighter market are higher costs for surimi’s key raw material, whitefish. The average price of imported raw material soared 73 percent between 2007 and 2008, from EUR 1.32 (USD 1.98) per kilogram to EUR 2.29 (USD 3.43) per kilogram, reported Adepale, which includes the French surimi industry group Adisur.

As a result, the average sales price has stagnated at about EUR 5.50 (USD 8.25) per kilogram in a market that saw turnover fall 4 percent in 2008 to EUR 228 million.

“Costs toward the end of 2009 for the key raw material have slightly dropped since earlier on in the year, but the raw material is still more expensive than at the beginning of 2008,” a spokesperson for Adepale told SeafoodSource.

According to Adepale, surimi imports rose by a considerable 15.5 percent in 2008, to 18,454 metric tons. The United States and Vietnam are France’s key surimi suppliers, representing 39 percent and 35 percent of total surimi imports, respectively.

Vietnam leap-frogged Chile, which before 2008 was the second biggest supplier after the United States. Last year, Chile accounted for 14 percent of French surimi imports, compared to 39 percent in 2007. Smaller importers include Thailand, Argentina, China, Peru and India.

“Fishing in Chile met with a number of difficulties in 2008, notably due to an unfavorable climatic situation,” reported Adepale.
 
“As far as Vietnam, the principal species is the [lizardfish], a deep-sea fish caught by trawlers. The development of Vietnam as a supplier reflects progress made by the fishing industry in terms of selection. While before fish was principally made into fish flour, now businesses have developed a method of selection that allows them to place the bigger fish on the market for ‘table’ fish and the smaller fish for industrial use, such as the foundation of surimi,” explained Adepale.

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