Q&A: Industry veteran optimistic about ‘10

Published on
November 24, 2009

Guus Pastoor is president of AIPCE-CEP (the European Fish Traders and Processors Association) and chairman of the Dutch Federation of Fish Processors and Wholesalers. SeafoodSource recently talked to Pastoor about everything from international trade politics to the current economic climate to sustainability and eco-labeling.

Holmyard: How does AIPCE-CEP represent its members?
The European association has members in the Netherlands, Finland, France, Poland, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, UK, Ireland and Italy, so [it] deals with many diverse issues, from food safety to the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. We keep members updated about new developments, formulate positions on national and EU policy, and represent the companies at national and international level. The global context of fish trading means we also work closely with an international network of contacts.

What concerns your members the most right now?
Supply is the most critical concern — where to source fish of the required quality and at a competitive price. International trade is complex, with increasingly larger entities controlling the market and a growing number of product requirements. Companies need to invest to stay competitive, and to have knowledge and technology to produce products that meet market demand. All this requires flexibility, yet we see so many efforts limited by an ever-growing and more complex suite of legislation.

What is the current balance between domestic seafood supply and imports?
On average, the EU imports 65 percent of its fish supply. In the Netherlands, the level of imports is even higher because the country has many specialist fish processors who supply a wide range of products all over Europe.

How has the economic downturns affected seafood trade?
The economic downturn has made banks reluctant to lend money for investment, while a lack of availability of credit insurance has hindered international trade. At the same time, we have seen consumers turn to lower-priced products, so the overall volume of sales has not decreased. 

Is sustainability and eco-labeling a priority for your members?
The issue of sustainability has always been important for those who work in the seafood business, but it took a long time for businesses to realize that a solid relationship and mutual commitment are essential for sustainability on all levels. We also need to be sure of the concept of sustainability, which has to be science based, not just emotion-driven. People are looking for long-term strategies for this and for eco-labeling, which is providing new opportunities for companies to pursue sustainable development.

Finally, what is your forecast for the seafood industry in 2010?
Overall, I believe the long-term prospects for fish sales are positive. Supplies will become more sustainable, and consumption will continue to rise. The economic situation may improve in 2010, but consumer purchasing patterns will remain directed at value for money rather than luxury products. If processors rise to the challenge and produce the right products for the market, then I believe we can face 2010 with hope and confidence.

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