Driving export growth through Insight, ‘Feet on the Street’ and Origin Green
Bord Bia and Irish seafood exporters will exhibit for the second time at the Japan International Seafood and Technology Expo in Tokyo this week determined that its extensive market insight and promotion activity in South East Asia will lead to new business opportunities. Following on from the success of last year’s show and combined with recent promotional activities and extensive market research, South East Asia is now seen as a prime opportunity for Irish seafood companies to develop their export business.
The Bord Bia seafood strategy of expanding into emerging markets and maintaining its strong position in the EU has led to international markets now accounting for around a quarter of Irish seafood exports. Japan has been key to this success particularly for exports of Irish mackerel and other pelagic species. Irish seafood exports to Japan were valued at €15 million in 2017, representing an increase in value of 68% compared to 2016. Exports were accounted for predominantly by pelagic species. Irish mackerel accounted for €9.5 million worth of sales, equating to 64% of total seafood exports to Japan for the year and an increase of 150% from 2016. Horse mackerel values dropped slightly but remained the second highest exported seafood with a value of €3.4 million in 2017. 2017 saw a major increase in herring exports to Japan, with the value increasing from just €40,000 in 2016 to €750,000 in 2017 to account for almost 5% of total export values to Japan during this period. Varieties of molluscs, clams, shrimps and prawns made up the bulk of the rest of export values, combining to a value of approximately €1 million and showing no major change from 2016.
Japan is now Ireland’s 3rd largest export market for Irish mackerel and Irish horse mackerel.
The first quarter of 2018 has seen horse mackerel exports increase significantly, with values up 50% compared to the same time last year and overtaking standard mackerel values in the first three months of the year. Oyster values have increased by 120% during this period but still remain relatively low compared to the dominant pelagic species that currently dominate the Irish-Japanese seafood export trade.
Speaking about the potential for Irish seafood in this market, Karen Devereux, Sector Manager of Seafood in Bord Bia gave a positive overview of the market:
“Bord Bia’s decision to exhibit for the second time at the leading seafood trade show in Japan is underpinned by our market and consumer insight and the assurance that Japan can deliver high volume and value returns for Irish exporters of sustainably produced seafood.
Our market prioritisation study undertaken in 2016 and 2017 across 9 Asian markets identified strong potential for a range of Irish seafood across a number of markets in Asia including Japan. Providing a ‘deep dive’ on the seafood market in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore, this study has helped Irish seafood exporters to understand the market size, trends and potential in these markets and to identify prospective buyers, processors and distributors best suited to working with Irish seafood exporters. Many of the customers profiled in this study travelled to Ireland to participate in Bord Bia’s Marketplace event which took place in April of this year. Across this week long event, 27 of Ireland’s leading exporters had between them 650 one to one meetings with seafood buyers from around the globe. 31% of meetings were with buyers from China and other Asian markets and a number of Japanese customer also travelled to Ireland for this event where they had an opportunity to see for themselves our excellent production systems.
Japanese retailers are now highlighting to their customers their commitment to certified sustainable production systems, going beyond what is required by state authorities. This plays to the strengths of our Origin Green exporters and we will drive customer awareness around our unique offering in one-to-one contacts with buyers, trade advertising and other in-market initiatives”
The four Irish companies participating at Japan Seafood are all members of Origin Green and are keenly aware of the production and marketing benefits of sustainable food production that is independently verified.
The largest Japanese retailer AEON added sustainability to its seafood sourcing policy four years ago and aims to increase its sales of ASC and MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) to 20% of its total seafood sales by 2020. Many Irish seafood exporters including Ward Fish are drawing on their Origin Green credentials to meet the ASC and MSC standards.
“We were delighted to work with Bord Bia along with other producers earlier this year to promote our quality MSC Certified Irish Herring and Mackerel products to Japanese customers in a promotion with AEON across 100 stores over 3 days. The lessons we learned implementing our Origin Green Charter commitments have stood to us in our relationships with our Japanese customers.”
2017 saw a 16% value increase for Irish seafood exports worldwide to reach €645 million. Exports to the four main Asian markets of China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan increased by around 5 percent in value. These markets accounted for around 11% of total seafood export values in 2017. The main EU markets, namely France, Spain, UK, Italy and Germany continue to dominate seafood exports, accounting for approximately 57 percent of total export values.
In September Bord Bia and seafood exporters will target the Hong Kong market at Seafood Expo Asia in Wanchai, Hong Kong. From November 7th-9th 2018 Bord Bia and 17 Irish seafood exporters will attend China Fisheries & Seafood Expo in Qingdao, China.