Barcelona Blog: How Spain gets its seafood

Editor's note: Chris Dove is reporting from Seafood Barcelona for this special blog 

Advice to all seafood professionals: take a tour of Barcelona’s Central Fish Market, Mercabarna, and discover fascinating facts about our industry you never even considered.

When most of us are tucked up in bed, a dedicated army of wholesale traders work throughout the night in freezing temperatures to ensure we enjoy the freshest daily fish and seafood the world has to offer.

Seafood Barcelona Day Two began with a group of trade visitors congregating at 05:30 for a tour of southern Europe’s largest fresh food market. Donning protective clothing, we were warmly welcomed by Mercabarma President Leandro Serra Pallares, Directorgeneral Josep Tejedo i Fernández, Fish Market Manager Daniel Martínez Menchón, Head of Communications Rosar Lapuente i Camins and Research and Development Manager Pablo Vilanova Montagut.

Escorted through the 30,000 square-meter building, we witnessed 52 wholesalers electronically auction, then weigh, process and ice pack 85 percent of the fresh and 15 percent of the frozen fish traded each day.

A tour of the Interactive Fish Center provided the back story on the seafood trade from catch to consumption. The presentation is aimed at children — school records show a 25 percent increase in kids’ seafood consumption after their interactive experience.

Finally, a time-lapse video presentation by Higini Barrufet, CEO of Barrufet Group Food & Logistics, demonstrated the warehousing process matching individual pallet orders ready for transportation to hospitality and retail clients.

Back on Seafood Barcelona’s trade floor, visitors filled the aisles. Buyer comments included: “It’s useful meeting quality smoked salmon producers,” said Leyre Caño, buyer development manager at Loblaw, Canada’s largest food retailer; “We’re shopping around for quality fresh and frozen cod, hake and octopus suppliers at good prices,” claimed Renato Leite, director at Sonae MC, Portugal’s largest hypermarket; and “We’re looking to expand our imports of Vietnamese panga, black tiger shrimp, squid and Norwegian salmon, as well as our European exports of fresh and frozen cephalopods,” explained Selma Bitahi, vice president of Garden Seas in Casablanca, Morocco.

Henne Houwaard, sales manager at Parlevliet & Van der Plas in The Netherlands explained they sent a representative to the Brussels and Vigo events this year, but are exhibiting in Barcelona because “Spain is a growing, quality market for our wild caught species including redfish fillets caught by our 45 vessels in the north Atlantic and Greenland, and an opportunity to sell white fish, including saithe and silver smelt which we currently export to Egypt. Nigeria is our biggest market; high protein white fish sells well in Africa as it’s cheaper than meat.”

While imitation octopus tentacles from PeruPez are making in-roads in chef’s kitchens, according to president Dario Alvites Diestra, Norway’s Espen Hanson, chair of the Norwegian Seafood Council explained: “Since 2010, Spaniard’s home consumption of Norwegian salmon has increased 96 percent and we’re exchanging best practice to educate younger generations.”

After buying a dumpling factory last year, Latvia’s Salas Zivis have brought 7 of their 40 sweet and savory dumpling fillings to Spain for the first time in packs of 400 to 750 grams. “They’re really new, Spain doesn’t know the dumpling concept yet,” informs product manager Maksim Chernin. Having personally sampled their wild berry dumplings, Spain’s supermarkets can expect the products to start flying off the shelves.


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