Taiwan 2016 show blog: MSC no fit for Asia?

Click back here to get all the IntraFish news from the second edition of the Taiwan International Fisheries and Seafood Show.

Friday, Nov. 11. 11.30 a.m. CST

Grobest: Lessons learned from EMS

Taiwanese shrimp feed giant Grobest is walking away with a positive attitude from the Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS) crisis, which rattled Asia’s producers in the past years.

Jennifer Kuo, general manager and head of animal health at Grobest, said “while the news weren’t good, we still see opportunities."

Most of “the big companies” in Asia are now working more closely with each other, with institutions and researchers to find solutions applicable to the whole industry, she said.

“At Grobest, we tried to find new solutions and new farming systems and all this is good news for the industry,” she told IntraFish.

There has been a change in the mindset of farmers, Kuo said, adding “we see a lot of potential to cope with the disease.

“Diseases are not going away and we expect more to come but today we work better together. We’ve seen a lot of good results from farmers and they’re actually making money again,” she said.

Vincent Lin, general manager and head of food at Grobest, added the company has “testimony” that with its feed used at farms in Thailand and Vietnam “shrimp can sustain the bacteria better and grow bigger.

“We as a company have our own way to deal with it and currently we’re doing better than our competitors,” he told IntraFish.  

Kuo said overall production volumes in Asia “slightly increased” this year and will continue to grow into next year.

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Friday, Nov. 11, 11.15 a.m. CST

Japanese association: MSC no fit for Asia

It’s been nearly 10 years since Japan launched its own eco-label in late 2007 -- the Marine Eco-Label Japan (MEL Japan) -- and support for it is growing.

The association is now trying to cooperate with other countries to duplicate its scheme and apply to fisheries across Asia, Masashi Nishimura, chief of the resources management office, operations division at the Japan Fisheries Association, told IntraFish.

But why, if there’s such a strong international standard such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)?

The reason is an easy one: cost.

“The cost of MSC certification is rather high, which is an obstacle for Asian countries,” Toshiro Shirasu, president of the association, told IntraFish.  

“We’d rather run a more cost-effective scheme for the small-scale fisheries in Japan.”

So far, 24 fisheries are certified in Japan, with skipjack pole-and-line tuna being the biggest fishery.

Cost for the certification run from between $5,000 to $30,000 for a five-year certification, depending on the scale of the fishery or the chain of custody.  

“The challenge in Asia is that fisheries are a lot more diverse,” Nishimura said, adding the fisheries certified under MSC in Japan are export-oriented.  

And consumer awareness for the MSC among Japanese consumers is still low, even though support from retailers such as giant Aeon is rising.

Nishimura hopes that this will change with the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“The Olympic organizing committee is currently developing its sourcing code, which will be announced next year,” he said. “It’s very probable that sustainable seafood will be included.”

Whoever will win the big race at the Olympics is unimportant, he said. What is important that it will create more awareness of such schemes among Japanese consumers.

MEL Japan is currently undergoing a review.

“We’re now strengthening our scheme. It complies with FAO guidelines, but there’s always controversy on compliance because the guidelines leave room for interpretation,” Nishimura said.

In addition, “we try to promote our philosophy and idea to other Asian countries,” he said.

MEL Japan also targets to apply to the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) in the future.

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Friday, Nov. 11, 10.45 a.m. CST

Learning from Norway

Japan’s fish and seafood suppliers have big plans in the Taiwanese market -- and might just lean on the Norwegian marketing model to do so.

Within the next three years they want to grow their export value from the currently $200 million annually by 30 percent, Takashi Konno, manager at the export promotion office at the Japan Fisheries Association, told IntraFish.

Overall, Japan’s fish and seafood exports amount to $2.7 billion every year, and Taiwan is the country’s fourth biggest export partner.

Toshiro Shirasu, president of the association, agreed and told IntraFish, "Japanese cuisine is becoming a fashion worldwide. Seafood is an integral part of our cuisine and therefore we want to take that opportunity to export more all over the world, including Taiwan."

Other countries in focus include European nations such as the United Kingdom, Germany and France, he said.

“Norwegians have made a tremendous effort promoting their salmon and it’s now a major seller in many countries,” Shirasu said. “We want to take that as a model.”

The association is trying to push its farmed species in particular: seabream, yellowtail, scallops and more.

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Friday, Nov. 11, 8.45 a.m. CST

Strained China relations impacting Taiwan's seafood sector

The strained relations between China and Taiwan are weighing heavily on the latter's economy -- and with it the seafood industry, Steve Shyu, president of the Taiwan Fishery Economic Development Association, told IntraFish.

Since the Nationalist Party lost its presidency to Tsai Ing-Wen after a landslide election in January, relations between the two countries “have cooled down,” he said.

Aquaculture producers are already feeling the brunt, as there has been a "direct impact" in terms of exports into China.

Grouper farmers are the most at-risk producers, also because of sluggish demand and tanking prices in the Chinese market, which have spilled over to Taiwan.

"In the past two years China has become the biggest trading partner for Taiwan, and that's also the case for seafood," Shyu said.

In addition, the fishing industry is facing yet another challenge: climate change.

Due to a shorter summer, time at sea is continuously getting shorter, Shyu said. "Our resource is facing continuous problems."

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Thursday, Nov. 10, 4.15 p.m. CST

National eco-label plans taking longer than expected

Plans to launch Taiwan's own eco-label -- the Responsible Fishery Index (RFI) -- in early 2017 have been postponed as development is taking longer than expected, Steve Shyu, president of the Taiwan Fishery Economic Development Association, told IntraFish.

"We're still working on basic things such as a reporting system and developing the business-to-business rating," he said.

Connections to retailers and foodservice operators also still need to be built up.

"But if you come again next year we'll hopefully have a full roadmap in place," he said.

Shyu, an industry veteran with 30+ years of experience as an importer and trader, said while he supports labels such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), they are "not suitable" for the Taiwanese market.

While the MSC is well-recognized in western countries, it is still fairly unknown in Taiwan, he said, adding it is an "export-driven" certification not suited for small-scale, local fisheries of the island nation.

It cannot cover the diversity of the local, coastal fisheries industry, which mainly supplies the domestic market, he said.

Nevertheless, he believes awareness of the need of sustainable fishing is growing across Asia and in Taiwan.

"Everybody in the industry has sustainability at their hearts. Everyone knows it's a big issue -- it's so big that they don't know how to solve it," he said. "Only a small percentage take awareness into action."

What needs to come too is consumer awareness, Shyu said -- this could give the industry the final push to forge ahead with putting systems in place.

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Thursday, Nov. 10, 3.45 p.m. CST

President Trump? Brace yourselves!

The US election was one of the big subjects discussed at today's show.

Asian industry members IntraFish talked to reacted with concern, and said uncertain times for international trade lie ahead.

While Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe "has sent a positive message," congratulating Donald Trump, "I'm personally am shocked," said Masashi Nishimura, chief of the resources management office, operations division at the Japan Fisheries Association.

"There are many concerns," he told IntraFish, adding "but then he [Trump] is only one single person."

Chung Quang Vinh, sales vice manager at Vietnamese processor Seaprimexco, said it is difficult to predict the impact of Trump moving into the White House.

"We really have no idea what will happen next but Trump is opposing the TTP [Trans-Pacific Partnership], which could be an obstacle for us.

"But hopefully things will change," he told IntraFish.

Steve Shyu, president of the Taiwan Fishery Economic Development Association, said "I didn't consider it would become reality.

"I don't know what is going to happen, frankly," he told IntraFish.

Nevertheless, he hopes it won't have "the biggest impact" on Taiwan's seafood trade, as the country is relying more and more on China as its main trade partner.

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Thursday, Nov. 10, 12.40 p.m. CST

Vietnam's shrimp supply tightens up

Buyers of Vietnamese vannamei shrimp should brace themselves for lower supplies and higher prices in the next couple of months, Chung Quang Vinh, sales vice manager at processor Seaprimexco Vietnam, told IntraFish.

While the production output has been stable, there "will be poorer supply by the year-end," he said.

The reason? China is gearing up for the Chinese New Year in February 2017, and demand from the nation is spiking.

Prices for vannamei already jumped 15-20 percent in the past couple of months and could rise further, Quang Vinh said.

Other challenges impacting prices include the unstable weather conditions, and "frequent natural calamities," which have impacted harvesting especially this year, he said.

Seaprimexco budgeted a turnover of $35 million for the current financial year.

"But we will probably reach only 70 percent of that target," Quang Vinh said. "Hopefully next year the situation will be better."

The company operates three shrimp processing factories in Vietnam with a total annual capacity of 8,000 metric tons. In addition, it also processes around 4,000 metric tons of surimi at a fourth plant.

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Thursday, Nov. 10, 12.22 p.m. CST

Black cod dreams

Canadian firm North Delta Seafoods has one clear goal for this year's show: promoting Black cod.

"It's tasty, it's high quality, it's good," Kevin Chen, manager Asia sales and marketing at North Delta, told IntraFish.

"Asia used to import a lot but they forgot about it."

The Canadian season gets underway in January 2017 and the company hopes to have closed some deals by then.

In addition, Chen is also promoting wild salmon such as sockeye and chum to his Taiwanese customers, which are mainly made up by importers.

The company predicts better revenues this year, based on higher prices. China is North Delta's biggest market, but it also sells to Malaysia, Singapore and Korea, in addition to Taiwan.

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Thursday, Nov. 10, 12.15 p.m. CST

Indian shrimp, surimi processor sets sights on Taiwan

Maharashtra-headquartered Ulka Seafoods will keep pushing its tropical surimi into the Taiwanese market, Director Raju Rohakale told IntraFish this morning.

Banking on quality, it aims to grow its market share further, despite the relatively "stable" demand in the country, he said.

The company has been exporting to Taiwan for around 14 years. "Everyone knows our quality and our brand, which is why we think we'll be able to grow."

He is seeing the biggest potential for itoyori-based surimi.

Currently, the company ships about 100 containers of seafood into the country.

Other markets include Europe, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the United States, South Africa and Middle East.

Last year, Ulka reported revenues of $41.1 million. The company operates two surimi factories and three seafood factories in India.

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Thursday, Nov. 10, 8.49 a.m. CST

Minister voices concern over Trump's US election win

Not surprisingly, Taiwanese newspapers splashed the news of Donald Trump's US presidency election win across their front-pages this Thursday morning.

President Tsai Ing-wen offered her congratulations on his victory on Wednesday, emphasizing the importance of US-Taiwan trade relations, saying it was Taiwan's most solid ally, according to The China Post.

However, Taiwan's Minister of Economic Affairs Lee Chih-kung expressed uncertainty regarding Trump's economic policies and their implications for Taiwanese and global markets.

The China Post wrote Lee suggested his election could impact Taiwan's intermediate input exports in light of his protectionist economic ideology.

He conceded, however, the breadth of the impact had yet to be determined and promised Taiwan would continue to promote its relationship with the United States.

According to figures provided to IntraFish by the Taiwan Frozen Seafood Industries Association, the United States was the island's sixth biggest export destination in 2015 in terms of fish and seafood with total volumes of 33,249 metric tons going into that market.

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Wednesday, Nov. 9, 5.25 p.m. CST

New aquaculture cage options

Fish farming cage manufacturer Toford Aquaculture introduced a new and easy fix to a dilemma many aquaculture companies are facing while trying to repair cages that are in operation.

The company developed new repair brackets for easy and fast on-the water repair, Dave Cheng, project manager at Toford, told IntraFish.

"Usually you have three options if a cage breaks," he said. "The first is to pull out all the fish and transfer it to another cage and then fix. The second is to not fix it at all, and the third is to have all the tools out on the cage and fix it there, which is very dangerous.

"We're now giving the industry a fourth option," he said.

So how does it work?

The new repair brackets feature adjustable handrails and snapped-on collars, secured by stainless cap screws and nuts.

This means, the repair requires neither cutting nor joining the floating pipes, which can be dangerous in open water.

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Wednesday, Nov. 9, 5.14 p.m. CST

Thai-Taiwanese seafood trade continues to go strong

Thailand remained Taiwan's biggest trade partner in terms of fish and seafood exports in 2015, according to figures provided to IntraFish by the Taiwan Frozen Seafood Industries Association.

Last year, the country imported 189,899 metric tons of fish and seafood -- the big majority was tuna -- from Taiwan, up 2.3 percent from the 185,510 metric tons imported in the previous year.

However, Taiwanese suppliers saw the biggest growth in China, which in 2015 imported nearly 32 percent more fish and seafood, growing from 107,181 metric tons to 141,477 metric tons year-on-year.

Third ranked Japan, which saw relatively stable imports year-on-year of 75,813 metric tons.

Vietnam was the fourth biggest trade partner to Taiwanese suppliers with import volumes of 72,029 metric tons, despite seeing a 12.4 percent drop in volumes year-on-year.

South Korea was the fifth largest trade partner with 60,246 metric tons, growing its purchases from Taiwan 10 percent year-on-year.

Overall, Taiwan exported 753,883 metric tons of fish and seafood last year valued at about $1.6 billion, growing 0.7 percent in volumes from 748,321 metric tons in the previous year.

Through August this year, export volumes hit 431,148 metric tons, and were valued at $906.5 million.

Skipjack tuna, Pacific saury, squid, tilapia and milkfish are the biggest species caught and produced in Taiwan.

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Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2.34 p.m. CST

The Muslim opportunity

Taiwanese importer Shin Young Marine is facing challenges in the domestic market -- just as many others operating in the highly competitive market.

"Taiwan is very competitive and it's difficult to grow," the firm's Cheng-Hao Lee told IntraFish.

So the company got creative and is now in the process of getting halal certification for its products to target the Muslim market in the Middle East and Malaysia.

"It's harder and harder to survive in the domestic market, which is why we expand overseas," Lee said.

She is seeing big opportunities for mahi mahi fillets in those markets. "If they have other choices they don't choose seafood, so giving them convenience is important."

The company started expanding from its domestic business about three years ago, Yun-Chen Lee of Shin Young Marine, told IntraFish.

It now markets products such as seabass, tilapia, Pacific saury and Argentinian shortfin squid in China, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam, he said.

Overall, the company imports 800 metric tons annually.

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Wednesday, Nov. 9, 12.34 p.m. CST

Global shrimp market remains challenging

Whoever sources shrimp is still facing the same issues: low supply, high prices and competition for raw material that is around.

"Prices are quite high this year but not because of disease of EMS but because it's not easy for farmers," Rebecca Hung, who works in Gem Ocean's purchasing department, told IntraFish.

As a result of the southeast Asian shrimp crisis of the past years, Gem Ocean has shifted its strategy slightly and now imports more Black Tiger shrimp rather than vannamei.

Vietnam is now the "main base" for sourcing its shrimp, and will remain so in the next two to three years, she said.

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Wednesday, Nov. 9, 12.20 p.m. CST

Taiwanese importer invests in new processing plant

Gem Ocean Seafood Corporation is planning a new processing plant in Kaohsiung -- a first for the company, which is specialized in imports.

Construction is expected to take two to three years, Rebecca Hung, who works in Gem Ocean's purchasing department, told IntraFish.

The reasoning behind it is to get more out of the raw material it purchases all over the world, and add more value to them, she said.

Mackerel and other oily fish will most likely be processed there, and the company is planning to design and develop "smaller packages" to target restaurants and supermarkets in Taiwan.

Through this, the company hopes to open new channels in the country's saturated market, a target it already started working toward last year. 

"It's still difficult in Taiwan," Hung said. "Consumers want high quality but low prices."

But its strategy of targeting end consumers seems to be paying off, she said.

Gem Ocean now has a dedicated website and sales team, and it recorded a 50 percent jump in sales directed to end consumers over the past 12 months.

Product diversification is also part of the company's growth plan, and it recently introduced lobster from Nicaragua, salmon steaks and halibut steaks to its wide portfolio.

Shrimp is still the biggest selling item, followed by Atlantic mackerel, lobster and processed products. Overall, the firm imports 600 containers of fish and seafood annually from 15-20 countries worldwide to supply around 1,000 domestic customers.

"Last year, we didn't do that well but this year we improved and are actually earning money again," she told IntraFish.

Gem Ocean targets a turnover of TWD 2 billion (€56.4 million/$63.4 million) this year "and we will actually make it," she said.

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Wednesday, Nov. 9, 12.05 p.m. CST

Sustainability is key, also in Taiwan

Officials opening the show this morning highlighted the importance of sustainable development for Taiwan's seafood industry.

"Marine resources are not unlimited, which is why we need a sustainable strategy," said Kuo Hsiang Lai, director general of the Bureau of Foreign Trade at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Kaohsiung Office.

Part of it is tackling illegal fishing, which has been made one of the key targets by the government, he said.

With an output of TWD 100 billion (€2.8 billion/$3.2 billion) annually, the country's deep-sea fishing industry plays a pivotal role on a global scale, said Peter W.J. Huang, president and CEO of TAITRA.

The show is aimed at highlighting Taiwan's importance as a fishing nation, to highlight recent achievements in terms of technology and sustainability and facilitate future growth, he said.

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Wednesday, Nov. 9, 9.20 a.m. CST

We're back in Kaohsiung for round two

IntraFish is yet again in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, for the second edition of the Taiwan International Fisheries and Seafood Show, co-hosted by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and My Exhibition.

Over the next three days, 250 domestic and international exhibitors will showcase the latest in fishing gear and technology, aquaculture equipment, processed seafood products and fisheries biotechnology.

Last year, 215 exhibitors attracted 6,500 visitors. The organizers expect this to grow to 8,500 this year.

This year's theme is 'Green Fishery and Resource Sustainability.' The organizers hope to raise awareness for sustainable practices in the industry and to look for potential solution to dwindling fishing resources.

Click here to see our coverage from last year's event.

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