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To be published in SeafoodSource News (www.seafoodsource.com) and Seafood Business Magazine (www.seafoodbusiness.com), January 2013.

GREECE, TURKEY UPHOLD SEA BASS PRODUCTION; SPAIN TO INCREASE IN 2013

By Chris Dove, Contributing Editor

The Mediterranean’s principal European sea bass producers experienced mixed fortunes in 2012, can anticipate an equally mixed year ahead.

The battle for top spot in the farmed sea bass production league rages on between Greece and Turkey. With the Mediterranean’s current highest production rate, Greece increased volume to 50,000 metric tons (MT) in 2012, a figure they’re forecast to replicate in 2013, according to Kontali seafood trade analysts. Second largest producer Turkey with 45,500 MT in 2012 is expected to marginally decrease volume to around 45,400 MT in 2013. Spain’s 9,500 MT in 2012 is set to increase to 10,000 MT in 2013.

As far as Greece’s Nireus Aquaculture are concerned, global demand for farmed sea bass is proving resilient supported by global macro trends. Maria Kotsovou, Nireus’ Marketing & Investor Relations Manager, said: “On the demand side, our Group focus on global markets, since we export 90 percent of the fish we produce. We highlight the growing population; rising middle classes in emerging countries; the ageing population in the developed world where there’s higher seafood consumption by ageing consumers; increasing consumer health consciousness has shifted demand from other sources (beef, pork, poultry) to fish; and increasing environmental awareness is shifting demand from capture to culture.”

Price is a key determinant on the supply side, Nireus noted, with sea bass prices having negative correlation volume growth and a weaker link with GDP growth, essentially, lower production volumes lead to better pricing and this consolidated production leads to less year-on-year volatility. They cited y-o-y price and volume evolution of EUR 6.50 (USD 8.40) per kilogram in November 2011 on a production rate of 90,000 kilograms against EUR 6 (USD 7.75) in November 2012 based on 89,000 kilogram volume. Price peaked at EUR 7 (USD 9.05) in 2012. “Although we can’t be certain of exact price movements, we believe average pricing will remain at satisfactory levels,” Kotsovou claimed.

In 2012, having overcome the challenge of time-consuming bureaucracy related to sea bass farm rental applications, Turkey’s 12 sea bass hatcheries participated in coordinated projects gaining insights into the country’s wild European sea bass population in the Aegean Sea and Mediterranean coast in order to improve selective breeding.

Turkey’s Sagun Group are reportedly aiming to inject growth in the country’s sea bass sector following its first harvest in August 2012, projecting combined sea bass and sea bream production of 14,000 MT by 2014. At press time, prices were unavailable.

Co-opting fish farm managers in Greece and Spain, Turkey is seeking innovative solutions in processing technology and techniques for creating added-value sea bass products and services, with the INTRANEMMA sustainability project at its core.

Spain has a higher quality-price ratio for 300 to 400 kilogram sea bass compared to highly priced wild sea bass over 2 kilograms. December is peak period representing 12 percent of annual sales (farmed and wild), with wild captures increasing to feed festive demand.

After reaching EUR 7 (USD 9.03) per kilogram mid-2012, Spain’s Marine Aquaculture Producers Business Association APROMAR saw the wholesale fresh sea bass price for weights below 600 grams peter out, ending the year at EUR 5.75 (USD 7.42) in Mercamadrid, EUR 5.90 (USD 7.61) in Mercabarna, only peaking at EUR 7.20 (USD 9.29) in Mercabilbao.

A public-private sector investment of EUR 11.8 million (USD 15.2 million) in Andalucía-based CUPIMAR will see intensive sea bass, sea bream and sole cultivation in the region.
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