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Stakeholders call for 'structural' pangasius marketing push

Pangasius' troubles in Europe continue -- and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

Pangasius has been struggling in Europe -- and the situation is getting worse.

A raft of negative media reports resulted in a public outcry at the beginning of the year, with the biggest hit coming when retailer Carrefour pulled the fish from its stores in Spain, Belgium and Italy.

And the impact has been huge.

Inlet, which is the second biggest importer of pangasius and the first company to sell the fish in Spain, saw its sales drop 75 percent in February and March, respectively.

“And they’ve dropped 73 percent in April so far, but the month is not over yet,” Eino Brand, managing director at the company, told attendees at a stakeholder meeting during the Brussels seafood show.

Alfons van Duijvenbode of Globally Cool called it the “pangasius paradox."

Aquaculture's importance is growing year-on-year and is looking at an ever more promising future -- but pangasius doesn’t seem to be able jump on that bandwagon, at least not in Europe.

Among the major whitefish species, including cod, pollock and hake, sold in Europe it was the only one to see continuously lower sales, he said.

It’s a toxic mix of a negative perception of safety, a negative perception of unsustainable production, a movement of lobbying to support local fish, and general competition for shelf space at retailers.

“It’s sad, especially if you see that producers are doing their best,” Esther Luiten, commercial director at the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), said.

So what now? The panelists and audience at the event were clear: structural marketing is needed.

Brand suggested the Vietnamese Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) should take joint marketing initiatives such as the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) does for salmon and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) for Alaskan seafood..

Tam Nguyen, general director at producer Vinh Hoan, said efforts are underway to organize a mechanism for a mutual marketing effort.

She also called for the support “from the whole supply chain,” including distributors and retailers in Europe.

“There should be a structural solution to this, not a one-off to put out the fire in Spain,” van Duijvenbode said.

“There’s a clear joint interest to get out of this but we in the EU expect action from the Vietnamese side."

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This story was first published in our Brussels Show 2017 blog. Click here to see the full IntraFish coverage from the event.

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