Strong exports keep seafood processing afloat

Overseas markets are becoming more important than ever to the Australia’s fishing and seafood processing industries, new study shows.

Exports are contributing more than half of total revenue for these industries at a time when Australian aquaculture is battling with significant competition from Chinese imports.

The aquaculture, fishing and seafood processing industries, which farm, catch and process fish, generate collective revenue of more than $4.0 billion and support approximately 13,000 jobs across Australia, according to IBISWorld.

“Seafood consumption has increased over the past five years due to rising disposable incomes, increasing concerns over health and obesity, and increases in the price of beef. As a result, many consumers have switched to alternative forms of protein. Imports from overseas nations, particularly ocean fish and processed seafood, have also continued to increase,” said IBISWorld senior industry analyst, Nathan Cloutman.

IBISWorld forecasts seafood consumption to have grown by 1.1 per cent during 2016-2017, to reach 18.3 kilograms per capita. However, this is lower than in 2003-2004, when peak consumption was recorded at 20.3 kilograms per capita. Tuna, salmon and trout are some of the most frequently consumed varieties of fish in Australia.

“Over the last five years, exports have become increasingly important to fishing and seafood processing in Australia as overseas markets command higher profit margins. Australia generally imports low margin, cheaper seafood products, such as bass fillets, and exports higher value products, such as premium Tasmanian salmon, which foreign consumers purchase for its premium quality,” said Cloutman.

“Exports from the fishing industry are estimated to account for two-thirds of industry revenue. In particular, an expanding Chinese middle-class has supported strong demand for high-value Australian-caught fish and seafood, including lobster, crab and abalone.”

Among Australian seafood processors, IBISWorld estimates that exports account for a sizeable 76.6 per cent of total industry revenue, or almost $1.2 billion. Some of the seafood processing industry’s key exports include rock lobster, tuna and prawns.

“Free trade agreements with South Korea, China and Japan have increased the amount of seafood imported into Australia, although imports in the Aquaculture industry are estimated to account of only 3.9 per cent of domestic demand in 2016-2017,” said Cloutman.

“Australians have traditionally preferred to consume Australian-grown produce and seafood, due to its perceived quality, and the economic and social benefits of supporting local industry. Some seafood products, such as salmon or snapper, will generally only be accepted by Australian consumers if they are Australian. Some other products, such as canned tuna, are purchased knowing the fish is processed offshore,” said Cloutman.


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