German processing industry braces for Brexit impact

Being shut out from the UK market 'could be detrimental to the production in Germany,' and some of the processing might move to Britain as a result.

Brexit and its implications on German fish and seafood processing was one of the big subjects discussed at the recent annual shareholder meeting of the German Fish Processors Association, Bundesverband der Deutschen Fischindustrie und des Fischgroßhandels (BV Fisch). 

Exports to the United Kingdom have been on the rise and BV Fisch is calling for continuous free market access after the UK officially leaves the EU in 2019, Matthias Keller, managing director of the association, told IntraFish

Last year, Germany exported €241 million ($270.3 million) worth of mainly frozen and processed fish and seafood to the United Kingdom, amounting to volumes of 51,173 metric tons.

It was the third-largest market for the German seafood industry in 2016, Keller said, following The Netherlands as the largest and France in the No. 2 position.

Being shut out from the UK market "could be detrimental to the production in Germany," Keller said, adding some of the processing might move from Germany to Britain as a result.

Imports from the UK, on the other hand, have been on the decline. Last year, the country was the ninth-largest import partner with 18,406 metric tons. This is down from 30,408 metric tons in 2014.

"Imports have gone completely flat," Keller said.

Turnover up for big processors

Overall, Germany processed 462,000 metric tons of fish and seafood in 2016, which is down 2.7 percent from 475,000 metric tons in the previous year.

However, production value rose from €1.97 billion ($2.2 billion) to €2.09 billion ($2.3 billion), Keller said.

Big processing companies, with more than 50 employees, saw the biggest spike in turnover, jumping 2.1 percent a year from € 2.02 billion ($2.3 billion) to € 2.06 billion ($2.3 billion).

BV Fisch said the biggest growth potential for German seafood processors is still the domestic market -- with a current market share of 78 percent -- despite a 3.1 percent growth in overall exports last year.

Average per capita seafood consumption rose from 13.5 kg in 2015 to around 14.2 kg last year, Keller said, which is positive in light of recent price hikes -- especially for salmon.

The association believes that selling prices will have to be revised further due to high cost of raw material, especially for salmon, herring and North Sea shrimp.

Call to fight plastic pollution

Another topic discussed at the meeting on June 9 was the "urgent necessity" for internationally coordinated action against plastic pollution in the world's oceans. 

Members agreed the issue, which was on the agenda of this year's United Nations (UN) Oceans Conference in New York earlier this month, should be a part of ongoing efforts in the industry. 

While fish and seafood processors can do their part -- for instance with innovative eco-friendly packaging -- the big push has to come on an international level, Keller said. 

The shareholder meeting also saw Deutsche See's Peter Dill reelected as president of BV Fisch, a post he will hold for another two years. 

Thomas Lauenroth of Lauenroth Fischfeinkost and Frosta's Jürgen Marggraf were confirmed as vice presidents. 

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