Kantar Worldpanel has reported that in 2018 the fish retail category continued to experience growth in value terms of 2.2 %. The fish category is now valued at €255 million, representing 2% of total Irish grocery spend. The category growth is mainly down to the performance of fresh fish, which continues to grow year-on-year.
Fresh fish retail sales grew by 5.6% in 2018, valued at €188 million. It is the most expensive protein on the domestic market, costing on average €14.66 per kg. The growth of the fresh fish sector is down to more frequent shopping trips to retailers, while a higher average price has also driven growth.
Prepacked fish saw a value increase of 5% in 2018. This is due to increased purchase frequency coupled with an increase in average prices. Salmon accounts for nearly 60% of prepacked value sales and has seen strong year-on-year growth. Other species such as Sea Bass and Cod have also seen strong growth in 2018.
Frozen fish retail sales saw a 6.4% decrease in value from the previous year, valued at €67 million. The unit price dropped by 5%, down to €7.61 per kg which still sits above the average price of pork (€6.61 per kg) and poultry (€5.98 per kg). The decrease in frozen fish value is down to reductions in price, shoppers leaving the frozen fish category and less frequent trips to the retailer. Private Label products dominate the frozen market, accounting for 44.3% value share in 2018. However, increasingly lower prices are driving the overall value down. Fish Cakes/Burgers, Ready Meals and Scampi have seen value growth in 2018, with new shoppers being attracted to these products.
Export Market Growth
Irish seafood exports were worth €579 million (Eurostat/GTIS) in 2018, down by 6% compared to 2017. Export volumes dropped by almost 8%, from nearly 240,000 tonnes to 221,000 tonnes.
European markets, especially France, Spain, Italy and the UK continue to dominate Irish seafood exports, accounting for over 55% of export values. The same four nations account for over 30% of Irish export volumes.
Almost one-quarter of Ireland’s seafood export values went to France in 2018. Worth €144 million, this makes France the top market in value terms. Some 13% (27,900 tonnes) of Ireland’s export volumes go to France, leaving it as Ireland’s second biggest export market in terms of volume.
Exports to Spain showed a decrease in value of 3.5% at nearly €74 million, while export volumes decreased by over 5% to 15,240 tonnes. The Italian market performed well in 2018 with an increase in value of 28%, up to €58.3 million. This was complemented by a 13% increase in volume exports to over 5,900 tonnes. In what may be a response to Brexit, the UK showed a big decrease in value exports of 23% to €45 million.
Export figures to Asia have seen growth in recent years, especially in China. Value exports to China increased by 67% in 2018, up from €27.5 million to almost €46 million. In volume terms, exports jumped from 9,700 tonnes in 2017 to 12,700 tonnes in 2018, an increase of 31%.
Japanese export values actually decreased by 4% in 2018. This came after years of steady growth in the market, growing from just €6.2 million in 2015 to €14.4 million in 2018. South Korea has seen a drop in value of 20% to €13.3 million in 2018, after a steady period of export values between 2015 and 2017.
The main African markets include Nigeria, Cameroon, Egypt and Ghana. Collectively, they account for almost 11% of Ireland’s total export values. In volume terms, they account for 33.5% of Ireland’s total seafood exports. Nigeria, alone, accounts for over one-fifth of Ireland’s export volume.
Irish mackerel experienced a quota cut of 20% in 2018. Many Asian buyers chose to purchase Irish mackerel, due to an increase in consumer demand. This meant that export volumes for 2018 dropped, but an increase in value compensated for this. Asia and Europe were the best performing pelagic markets, while the African markets performed well earlier in the year before they struggled with new price levels.
Export values on Irish shellfish were extremely strong throughout 2018 as demand continued to outstrip supply across many export markets. The largest shellfish export category in 2018 was frozen langoustines, which accounted for an estimated 9% of total seafood exports.
The live oyster sector had another strong value growth year with export values increasing by 9% and a decrease of 3% in export volumes.
Irish brown crab is one of the core shellfish species exported annually and this sector experienced very strong growth again in 2018 despite challenges in raw material supply, which has hampered the ability of the Irish processing sector to further penetrate new markets for this sought-after species. Frozen brown crab is the most important category within this segment and experienced strong growth, increasing in value by 17% against an 8% drop in export volumes. The live brown crab sector had a very strong year, growing in export value by 82% with excellent performances being recorded in China, which increased in value terms by 176% during 2018.
The rope mussel industry had another challenging year with an extremely competitive situation on the European market. This was partly driven by increased competition from Chile and Germany resulting in a drop in demand from key markets such as France and the Netherlands. More positively, the rope mussel industry has seen a significant increase in demand from the domestic market both in the food service and retail fronts. This can be attributed in part to Bord Bia’s ‘Flex Your Mussels Campaign’, which completed its third year of promotions in 2018.
Salmon production continued to face issues in relation to maintaining a regular supply for the market in 2018. Despite prices reaching high levels for organic Irish salmon, production reduced as operators were not been able to develop new sites for production. In 2018, fresh salmon (Salmo salar) export values dropped by 44% whilst the price per kilo of Irish salmon increased as demand drives the organic salmon sector.
Spain remains our main market for whitefish followed by the UK and France. Fresh monkfish is the top performing whitefish species in Spain with a value of €13.6 million in 2018. Some 2,452 tonnes of fresh monkfish were exported to Spain in 2018, with the unit price increasing by 14% to €5,535 per tonne.