A mixed outlook for Irish seafood this month, with market conditions for many species remaining challenging into August – particularly so for whitefish and shellfish.
According to Bord Bia’s COVID-19: Impact on Trade Report, published August 7th, oversupply issues have meant markets for Irish whitefish have remained difficult.
Though Irish retail sales are holding up, demand in the foodservice sector remains depressed, down significantly on last year, with outlets that are open handling merely a portion of their usual volumes for this time of year.
Things remain difficult also for crab fishermen, with very low prices being paid and the Chinese market now effectively closed once more on account of a skittishness around imported seafood and low prices rendering shipping costs unviable.
While trade is picking up in China, all major seafood wholesale markets in the country are now subjected to weekly COVID-19 tests due to a cluster of cases in Dalian, which pointed to the infection source as coming from imported seafood.
Compounding the challenges facing those targeting shellfish, demand in Europe for high-value species such as shrimp, velvet crab and lobster also remains weak.
Irish oysters are seeing small increases in demand in some markets, but logistics to Asia remain an ongoing challenge. Export figures for the first half of the year indicate volumes are down 56 per cent on the same period last year for the sector.
Demand from Europe for mussels remains sluggish, though the domestic market has been an increase in sales with the tourist season, however, volumes are insufficient to offset the drop in export demand.
With value sales down around 50 per cent to Italy, our biggest market, European demand for Irish prawns remains weak. Export values to the UK are also down 37 per cent for the period January to May 2020, compared to the same period last year.
Recent export figures for May compared to April are, however, more encouraging on the prawn front with export volumes up 78 per cent, largely destined for Italy and Spain.
On a more positive note also, pelagics have been performing reasonably well over the last few months, though here also there are challenges, with demand in China sluggish and conditions across Eastern Europe challenging, with lots of cheaper fish from international competitors available. Demand in Western Europe is, on the other hand, improving.
Photo Credit: Cathal Ó hUallacháin