The 2020 Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global event, scheduled to take place 21 to 23 April in Brussels, Belgium, has been postponed by the organizer, Diversified Communications.
The global outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus caused the postponement, according to Diversified Communications Group Vice President Liz Plizga.
“Postponing is inevitable and unavoidable because of public health concerns,” Plizga said.
Diversified Communications is aiming to host the global trade show in Brussels at a later date in 2020, Plizga said. Exhibitors and visitors will have the option of rolling over their fees to that event, or alternatively, to the 2021 version of Seafood Expo Global, scheduled for 27 to 29 April, 2021, in Barcelona, Spain.
Earlier in the year, the 2020 edition of Seafood Expo Global was pacing at 1,622 exhibiting companies (compared to 1,527 companies signed on to exhibit by the same time last year) and 40,851 square meters booked (compared to a final total of 40,625 square meters booked at 2019’s event), the 2020 Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global was slated to be the largest version ever in the event’s 28-year history.
“Diversified Communications has made the very difficult decision that, due to the magnitude of the unanticipated public health and safety issues posed by the rapidly escalating COVID-19 outbreaks and contagion, we have no choice but to postpone the upcoming edition of Seafood Expo Global and Seafood Processing Global,” Plizga said.
Plizga said Diversified intends to announce new dates no later than 18 March, 2020.
“We value the support of everyone involved in the making of this event our vendors, the local authorities, the venue and, most of all, our partners, friends and customers in the seafood industry. We are looking forward to getting this strong seafood community back together in the near future,” she said. “Until then, we send heartfelt thoughts to those who are affected by COVID-19.”
Earlier today, the Belgian government issued an advisory urging the cancellation of indoor events with more than 1,000 attendees as a method of containing the spread of COVID-19. Belgian Minister for Health Maggie De Block also recommend that people in Belgium maintain their distance from others in social settings, according to The Brussels Times. De Block said Belgium has now entered a phase of "secondary contaminations," meaning new cases are no longer just found among those who have returned from countries dealing with a high number of COVID-19 cases, such as Italy, Politico reported.
Numerous trade shows both in the seafood industry and outside of it have been postponed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, including the Vietshrimp Aquaculture International Fair 2020, the World Tuna Trade Conference & Exhibition, and Aquafeed Horizons 2020.
Additionally, Diversified Communications previously postponed Seafood Expo North America/Seafood Processing North America due to the COVID-19 contagion, which was scheduled to take place 15 to 17 March in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. Plizga said Diversified is aiming to host that event later in 2020, either in Boston or in another U.S. city, with an announcement expected on that decision by mid-April.
“This decision has been difficult because of the major importance of this event to the industry,” Diversified said in a 3 March statement confirming the event’s postponement. “We heard from those of you who were concerned about health, safety and travel restrictions, and given the short time before the scheduled event date, and upcoming logistics, we have determined that postponement at this time is unavoidable.”
According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 109,000 cases of COVID-19 reported globally as of 9 March, with about a quarter of the total occurring outside of China, the epicenter of the virus. More than 3,800 people have died from the virus, the organization reported.
“It’s certainly troubling that so many people and countries have been affected, so quickly,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom said in a 9 March media briefing. “Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real.”
COVID-19 has caused massive disruptions of global markets, including in the trade of seafood. Trading of seafood into and out of China has become a trickle of what it was just a few months ago, according to The Wall Street Journal. Due to a lockdown across much of the country, seafood coming from and going to China is piling up in freezer vans and cold storages indefinitely, according to National Fisherman.
“If you have plants that have product coming in and no workers to fill it, you’re going to get that overflowing cold storage situation. So it’s definitely a problem on the reprocessing side. On the consumption side, if people aren’t going out to eat and going out to the market to buy seafood, that’s going to take consumption down as well. So there’s a couple different ways that it’s working against moving seafood through the supply chain,” said Andy Wink, director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association and an economist who has tracked world salmon markets for more than a decade.
Ships traveling to and from China are reporting difficulty getting into Chinese ports, while others are stuck at docks waiting for workers to return, and still more are idling in “floating quarantined zones,” as countries refuse to allow crews of ships that have docked at Chinese ports to leave the boat until they have been declared virus-free. That’s a massive problem, as about 80 percent of trade of the world’s goods by volume is carried by sea, and China is home to seven of the world’s 10 busiest container ports, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
“Factories aren’t open, and goods aren’t being made. We don’t know yet what that impact is going to be,” Peter McGraw of Northwest Seaport Alliance told KOMO News. “There have been a lot of blank sailings. That means a lot of canceled ships.”
Additionally, the cancelation of flights in and out of China “has been so extensive that freight forwarders have had a very hard time finding any space at all on planes for their shipments,” according to The New York Times.
The impact is being felt far beyond China, as the coronavirus continues to spread around the world. In the United States, in the wake of coronavirus-related cases and mortalities increasing, Americans are staying home more and eating out less. Nonetheless, prices are coming down for seafood in U.S. stores as it is diverted from areas where markets have collapsed. Salmon prices are down about 10 percent at the wholesale level, and ongoing price negotiations and the setting of dock prices have been disrupted as buyers and sellers struggle to get a fix on demand, National Fisherman reported.
In Europe, traders are scrambling to determine the impact COVID-19 is having on their businesses. Norwegian salmon exporters have seen a sharp decline in exports to China, with just 363 MT of salmon were exported to the market last month, a decline of 83 percent compared to February last year.