Lower catches hurt Peru squid, mackerel sales in China
A leading Peruvian seafood exporter is encouraging buyers in China to purchase silver smelt as processing factories here scour for alternatives to whitefish like whiting. Factories in Dalian and Qingdao have both expressed an interest in buying large volumes of smelt, claims Enrique Leon Taboada, sales manager at Pesquera Hayduk SA.
“We’ll now assess the volumes we’re able to supply and try a shipment,” he explained.
Hayduk has struggled to get squid to supply demand in China and Thailand, said Taboada. “It has not been a good year for squid, but luckily we had stocks,” he explained. Hayduk has built a new factory in southern Peru to process squid for China, which prefers boiled squid, unlike Thai and Russian buyers who prefer fresh squid, said Taboada. Chinese prices for Peruvian squid tend to be volatile, said Taboada, ranging from USD 1,800 (EUR 1,332) to USD 3,000 (EUR 2,219) in the past year and currently sitting at USD 2,500 (EUR 1,849) per ton.
Faced with lower squid catches this year, the firm, which has two plants in Peru, has been able to diversify revenues by meeting strong demand in west Africa for jack mackerel: “there’s a big demand for cheap protein in countries like Nigeria and Cameroon,” explained Taboada. However, the firm’s jack mackerel catch is down 50 percent year-over-year so Hayduk is also seeking to capitalize on a good year for hake by upping hake exports.
Peru remains keen to diversify away from fishmeal and raw materials into value added products, while also promoting new species for export. Anchovies, eel and smelt are all priorities for export, according to Francisco Via Diaz, who handles the seafood export brief at ProPeru, the government export promotion board. He points to shipments of dried, shredded squid by Inversiones Peru Pacifico as proof of value-added shipments.
Rising demand in China and elsewhere has drawn an unreliable element to the seafood export trade, claims one exporter of fish and squid. “Some people are selling what they don’t have…if I sell a container it’s because I have it to sell,” said Daniel Garcia, exports manager at Altamar Foods. His firm has done well from demand for giant squid as a substitution for octopus in key markets like the U.S. and China. He’s also predicting increased demand for mahi mahi among Chinese buyers drawn to the novelty of the fish. “China is about show and pomp, so they want novelty fishes,” said Garcia, who charges USD 5 (EUR 3.70) per pound for mahi mahi.
While Peru has become a major exporter of seafood products its potential remains limited by the lack of a domestic long-distance fleet. Local trawlers have a capacity of 200 to 300 tons and do all their freezing on land, said Taboada.