What’s impeding France’s seafood trade?

By

Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
December 7, 2009

Prices, petrol and pirates are among a swathe of issues impacting France’s seafood industry, according to a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Released last week at a conference in Brest, France, for players in the seafood supply chain, the report highlighted the impact of the economic downturn and the “concentration of retail buyers” on the bottom line.

“The fishing sector is evolving in the context of a tumultuous economy, already made fragile by structural elements such as the aging of production tools, a reduction in investment aid and petrol prices,” said the report.

While a strong euro has actually eased the petrol bill, the fall in the price of fish at auction has weakened the bottom line — a situation further exacerbated by the influx of non-European fish products into the French market.

According to the report, average per-ton fish prices fell 7.1 percent between 2008 and 2009 for an overall market valued of about EUR 1.72 billion (USD 2.54 billion).

Between 1 January and 30 September, the country’s fishermen landed 138,544 metric tons of fish, valued at EUR 396 million (USD 584.2 million), or an average of EUR 2.86 (USD 4.22) per kilogram. These figures compare with 146,727 metric tons landed last year, pulling in EUR 451.4 million (USD 665.9 million), or an average of EUR 3.08 (USD 4.54) per kilogram.

While consumers are increasingly encouraged to eat fish twice a week due to the products’ health benefits, the report highlighted a fall in the volume of fresh, frozen and farmed fish sold over the past 10 years.

“Only shellfish producers have known relative stability during this time,” said the report.
 
The report also reverberated concerns across the industry about pirates on the high seas.

“Acts of pirating continue today and are strongly impacting activities for tuna fleets,” said the report.

Indeed, following a steep growth in the number of pirating acts in certain regions of the world, the French government has taken steps to protect French vessels from pirating. In July, for example, armed soldiers joined French tuna vessels operating in the Seychelles.

Finally, any investigation of the French seafood industry can not be studied in isolation but in the context of the European Union. For PricewaterhouseCoopers consultants, the evolution of France’s fishing industry is “intrinsically tied” to the reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, due by 2012.

The Sarkozy administration earlier this year kicked off the “Assises de la pêche,” a forum to enable stakeholders across the seafood supply chain to participate in the reform debate and help prepare France’s position.

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