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UK Seafood Summit: Is there a hidden hard Brexit waiting for seafood?

Formerly known as the Humber Seafood Summit, the event this year takes place over two days and will yet again see Brexit as the most important talking point. Keep checking back here to follow along with all the news.

Thursday, Oct. 18, 5.45 pm GMT

Now we can talk about 'seafood'

Seafish will completely handover the responsible fishing scheme (RFS) to its new home of the Global Aquaculture Alliance's (GAA) Global Seafood Assurances (GSA) program no later than May 2020.

Back in April, GAA established the not-for-profit GSA Program, which will bring together a network of standards to ensure all aspects of the wild seafood supply chain are covered, with the RFS a key standard in this new suite.

“[The GSA] is not another standard setter, or standard, but unfortunately it is another acronym,” said the GAA’s Melanie Siggs.

By linking up with GAA’s already comprehensive BAP scheme for farmed fish, the GSA program ensures “end to end supply chain assurance for seafood.”

The RFS -- which focuses on vessels -- has first been rolled out across the UK but the goal is to ultimately take it global, which will “complete the assurance chain for wild seafood like we’ve done for aquaculture,” said the GAA’s Wally Stevens.

“Now we can start talking about seafood and demand for seafood, rather than farmed and wild.”

A complete reform of the RFS will be done shortly, keeping the best bits and reforming those needed and once developed there will be a pilot regime. It will be ready for new applicants mid to end of 2019.

Melanie Siggs also revealed during the summit that Marcus Coleman, CEO of Seafish will now sit on the board of the GSA, so the trade body will still be involved with the RFS standard going forward.

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Thursday, Oct. 18, 4.33 pm GMT

Marine litter costs EU fishing fleet an estimated €62 million a year

Marine litter, of which the bulk is made up of plastic waste, is estimated to cost the EU fishing fleet alone around €62 million, according to Peter Kershaw, a scientific advisor to the United Nations.

Although the data is fairly old from 2010, Kershaw said it gives an idea of the size of the issue on the fishing industry.

The additional time it takes for EU fishermen to sort their catch costs around €29 million per year, litter removal from fishing gear an estimated €12 million, damage to gear and propellers €17 million, and cost of rescue services €5 million.

Kershaw also gave an example of how much more money fishermen could earn if they focused on gear recovery.

Using the global pot and trap fisheries as an example, which covers nine species of crab and lobster, Kershaw said total landings in 2016 were 615,560 metric tons with a value of $2.5 billion. That year the average gear loss was 20 percent.

According to Kershaw, potential increased landings following just 10 percent gear recovery would amount to 293,929 metric tons, with a potential increase in revenue of $831 million.

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Thursday, Oct. 18, 3.13 pm GMT

Brits are #1 consumers of Norwegian cod, haddock - but they don't know that

The British are the number one consumers of Norwegian cod and haddock, but many don't know where their fish comes from, according to Hans Frode Kielland Asmyhr, UK director at the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC).

Others even mistakenly assume it is British, he said.

In fact a third (33%) of total cod and haddock for UK consumption is Norwegian, he said, and "origin matters."

"The UK retail sector needs to focus more on the importance of origin to give consumers a better choice," he urged.

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Thursday, Oct. 18, 2.41 pm GMT

It’s been a ‘challenging’ year for foodservice, but things are looking up

Foodservice operators in the UK have had a challenging year, according to Victoria Cook, central buyer at M&J Seafood, but nevertheless it is a market in long term growth with an “exciting” future with “fantastic, vibrant and diverse opportunities for seafood, she said.

Over the past ten year the sector has seen dips caused by first of all the credit crunch and now Brexit, but in general it has been, and is, on a path of longterm growth, said Cook.

“But it has not been without its challenges in the short term,” she said, with increasing business rates, ingredient inflation, increase in the minimum wage and staff shortages. Not to mention consumers are spending more but going out less.

And the high street is particularly under pressure with big names such as Jamie’s Italian and Carluccio’s filing for CVAs, while other names such as Prezzo, Loch Fyne and ChimiChanga have had to make closures.

“But despite this doom and gloom the future is exciting and seafood offers a huge opportunity,” said Cook.

“Fish is very much on trend as consumer move away from heavy proteins and go meat free,” she said.

There is also a rise of online companies such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats, which are bringing the dining out experience into peoples’ homes.

“Fish ticks all the boxes for the foodservice market and it is an exciting and innovative market that is in longterm growth,” said Cook.

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Thursday, Oct. 18, 2.02 pm GMT

Stop thinking just about the fish

The rise in meat-free meals is continuing to gather momentum in the UK, while the “flexitarian” trend – where people want to eat less meat -- is also picking up pace, said Simon Smith, CEO of Seachill.

And both of these trends are good news for the seafood sector.

For example, 1 billion vegan meals were eaten in the last year, accounting for 3.6 percent of all main meal occasions, but only 14 percent of vegan meal occasions are eaten by vegans.

Meanwhile 4.8 million households – 8 percent of the UK have adopted a flexitarian diet. “This is an opportunity for fish as younger consumers and protein consumers are looking to eat as much as possible of it."

Flexitarians are less likely to scratch cook. Instead they prefer some help from cooking sauces and are more likely to eat convenience foods.

“The easy to prepare segment is in rapid growth and we also need to help people to scratch cook more with fish.”

It is a key change in our convenience needs – it is no longer about saving time, but about saving effort. Easy plates are 33 percent more valuable than quick plates – averaging £1.03 for quick to prepare and £1.39 for easy to prepare.

“The amount people pay for the level of ease is higher, and there is a sense of a feel good factor in cooking a meal from scratch.”

But while fish is seen as easy and quick to prepare, fish meals – which include other elements and ingredients on the plate -- are seen as more complex.

According to Smith, fish is 65 percent more likely to be chosen for ease and speed than other savoury foods, but occasions featuring fish take on average half an hour to prepare and take 20 percent longer than other main meals.

“Flexitarians want it made easy,” he said. “We are more likely to draw them in if we stop thinking about fish, and think about whole meal.”

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Thursday, Oct. 18, 1.26 pm GMT

Seafood beginning to price itself out of protein market

Current economic uncertainty, diminishing shopper confidence, and the return of inflation are all aspect impacting how, why and when UK consumers are eating seafood, according to Simon Smith, CEO of Seachill.

In response, consumers are reducing the amount of food they are throwing away, they are snacking less, and they are cooking from scratch more at home rather than eating out.

“Fish is 17 percent more likely to feature at scratch cooked meals, but just under 30 percent of fish feature in these occasions,” said Smith.

In fact, Smith said there is a need for food and fish to be more competitively priced and “seafood is beginning to price itself out of protein market”.

And it is typical that it is the younger households who are being hit the hardest with the price increases, and who are buying less volume, he said.

“It is the young households we are excluding – the same ones we’ve been battling for years to get into the category,” said Smith. “And without them our consumers will die.”

Nevertheless, it is not all about price and trading up and down has become the norm for consumers – choosing to spend more money on what matters to them and less on what doesn’t.

“What we are consuming has changed as our habits change and healthy convenience is becoming a more important consideration in our fish meal occasion choice,” said Smith.

For example, traditional sectors such as smoked salmon are declining, while there is a rise in breaded, shellfish, value added meals, as people look for something different for a quick, weekday meal.

However, one constant is the limited species repertoire. The top five species bought in UK retail hasn’t changed of the past five years, and in fact is “getting worse not better” as they’ve increased their share over the same period.

“So what can we do about that? How do we encourage them to eat more diverse species?” asked Smith.

The answer is to make it easier to prepare more exotic species, make it more price accessible and make it look familiar.

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Thursday, Oct. 18, 12.14 pm GMT

UK seafood consumption slumps 5.4% since 2015

Seafood consumption among UK consumers is on the slide, so the question remains for the industry --how do we encourage people to eat more seafood?

Currently averaging around 1.08 portions per person, per week, seafood consumption in the United Kingdom has slipped by 5.4 percent since 2015, according to Leanne Muldowney, marketing manager, at Seafish.

According to a new study of UK consumers, 67 percent say they are not eating enough seafood – the recommendation is 2 portions a week – but 55 percent of consumers say they want to eat more seafood.

“So there is a lot of opportunity here,” said Muldowney. Firstly, there is a need to boost awareness around the message of eating two portions of fish a week, said Muldowney, bringing it onto a par with the awareness surrounding five portions of fruit and veg per week.

The barriers to seafood consumption make for familiar reading -- smell, texture, versatility, convenience, appearance, not good value for money, knowledge of how to prepare and cook, concerns over bones – so there is also still a big need for consumer education about fish.

“And there are many opportunities to increase consumption,” said Muldowney. By considering increasing money off promotions, for example, or more introducing more offers to entice the consumer, such as fish-based meal deals, she said.

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Thursday, Oct. 18, 11.07 am GMT

Is there a hidden hard Brexit waiting for seafood?

Any future EU-UK trading relationship model based on an FTA will make accessing preferential tariff treatment contingent on compliance with rules of origin (ROO), according to Daniel Capparelli, practice lead at Global Counsel.

Because the EU and UK are likely to maintain high basic tariffs for many processed food and drink products, including fish, some producers excluded from preferential terms may face the prospect of either restricting production and supply chains or a defacto barring from EU-UK trade.

He gave an example of the supply chain for UK-made deep frozen battered fish fingers. The ingredients here show cod sourced from Iceland, China, Russia, Norway, Germany, Poland and Denmark. It then lists pollock sourced from China, the USA and Germany. Haddock is also listed as coming from Iceland and China.

The fish element is imported in deep frozen blocks into the UK. However, CETA and PEM, as most existing ROO frameworks, require fish content to be “wholly obtained” in a party country to the agreement, so the problem is “fish fingers produced in the UK would fail to meet origin requirements under a future EU/UK FTA,” said Capparelli.

Capparelli therefore urged the industry to “know your exposure.”

“The more globalized you are in terms of supply chains, the more you might need to worry."

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Thursday, Oct. 18, 10.31 am GMT

UK EEZ landings could hit at least £1.3 billion in a post Brexit world

According to Mike Park, CEO of the Scottish Whitefish Producers Association, UK fishing boats caught just more than one third (36 percent) of all the fish and shellfish landed from the UK’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in 2016, worth about £815 million or 49 percent of the total.

UK fishing boats caught a further £112 million worth of fish and shellfish from other areas of the EU EEZ.

If the UK fishing boats could catch even half of the principle species landed from the UK EEZ, then the total value of their landings would increase to about £1 billion – a 23 percent increase on 2016.

If this share increased further to 75 percent, then the landings would be worth £1.3 billion, said Park.

“We are just after a bigger share of what’s available, rather than take more fish out of the sea, he said. “It’s not a massive ask when you see what Norway takes out of its own waters, or Iceland.”

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Thursday, Oct. 18, 10.07 am GMT

Anyone have a crystal ball?

When it comes to Brexit, things keep changing on an almost daily basis at the moment -- for example even overnight there was talk of the transition period being extended for another year.

With the situation constantly in flux “you might as well have a crystal ball in front of you,” said Andrew Oliver, partner at Andrew Jackson Solicitors.

However he did give a comprehensive summary of how things stand at the moment, in terms of fisheries legislation, access to waters, what to do with extra quotas, management, and trade.

Particularly, he said it was a “vital issue” that the access to markets for fisheries products will be agreed as part of a future economic partnership along with other goods and products, and will be kept completely separate to the question of fishing opportunities and access to waters.

“This is a vital issue, whether you are in fishing or processing,” he said. “It is good to see no linkage… there was a lot of concern market access would be for fishing rights, so it’s good to hear that remains a key point of government policy.”

Oliver added that the current obstacle of the Irish border has been a good thing for the fishing sector.

“The Irish border issue pushed fisheries into the background and this might be a good thing and allow for proper discussions for fisheries,” he said.

Nevertheless, anything could still happen.

“That’s the way it stands at the moment, but it could all change by lunchtime, or with a new government by Christmas – who knows.”

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Thursday, Oct. 18, 9.43 am GMT

Preparing for all eventualities

Although still considered unlikely, the seafood and fisheries sectors must prepare for all eventualities when it comes to Brexit, including a “no deal,” according to Nigel Gooding, deputy director for EU and International Fisheries Policy at DEFRA.

“Even though unlikely we must prepare for a no deal scenario until we know the outcome of the negotiations,” he said.

He then listed what this might mean for the various areas. Imports, for example, will see no change on the day the UK leaves the EU, he said, including on the current import controls or requirements for notifications of imports of live animal imports and animal products direct from the EU.

This is the case at the moment and the government will not introduce new ones immediately. However importers from third countries would need to use a new import notification system. This will be available in Jan 2019 for testing and fully operational at the time UK leaves, he said.

In terms of exports in a no deal scenario, however, export health certificates (EHC) will be needed for all animal products and live animals heading from the UK to the EU as the EU would require the UK to be listed as a third country. Exports to the rest of the world will continue to need EHCs.

“Guidance, training materials and updates will be issued to the industry to support exporters in preparing to leave the EU,” said Gooding.

For fisheries, most fish and fish products will require a catch certificate for import and export, however a catch certificate will not be required for trade in some aquaculture products such as freshwater fish, molluscs, fish fry or larvae.

An audience member from Scotland involved with the salmon industry, however, was already concerned with the sudden increase in EHCs. Firstly there are not enough people currently available to service the increased demand – from around 50,000 per week to 200,000 per week – while the cost is becoming a “huge expense,” she said.

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Thursday, Oct. 18, 8.58 am GMT

Seafish launches Young Seafood Leaders Network for UK

Similar to existing programs in Norway and the United States, Seafish is today launching the concept for a young leaders program in the UK, Marcus Coleman, CEO of the trade body announced.

The program will be open for "young leaders" in the UK seafood industry, between the ages of 25 and 40.

"It will be for like-minded people who want to explore what the industry has to offer," said Coleman. So we will create a network for them to come together, and help facilitate tie ups with similar programs, such as the young leaders program in Norway and in the US.

Companies will be able to nominate young leaders in their organisations to take part, but ultimately the scheme will be "very much self directed."

"The young people will come together to create a steering group and take it forwards," said Coleman.

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Wednesday, Oct. 17, 4.31 pm GMT

What 'no deal Brexit' could mean for seafood tariffs into the EU

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Wednesday, Oct. 17, 3.57 pm GMT

Seafish tool to help tackle Brexit ‘uncertainty’

Seafish has built a new seafood trade and tariff tool, in a bid to help clear the murk on at least some of the issues surrounding Brexit.

The trade body is making its export and import data accessible to everyone on a new comprehensive and searchable platform.

“Brexit basically changed the whole environment, introduced a lot of uncertainty in international trade relationships, and increased interest in export information,” said Arina Motova, senior economist at Seafish.

“With our new tool we hope we can support decisions at both business and government levels by making the data available.”

The tool is currently undergoing its first test drive and is in the consultaion process. We are looking for feedback which will adapt into the system and trial it again,” said Motova.

For the moment though, Seafish is unable to say when the tool will be fully available.

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Wednesday, Oct. 17, 3.14 pm GMT

Being prepared for the unknown

How are exporters – and specifically seafood exporters – supposed to prepare for 2019 and beyond? How does someone prepare for the unknown that is Brexit?

While it is a hard to know the answer, by committing to food and drink exporting and preparing for an rapidly changing environment, companies can at least have a head start, according to a presentation by Elsa Fairbanks, the director of the Food and Drink Exporters Association (FDEA).

Speaking in her place, Malcolm Large, head of International trade and regions at Seafish, said the “exporting environment is going to be changing fast for the next six months and continue to change for at least a couple of years to come.”

“So researching and getting to know -- and meeting the needs of -- your buyers will be key,” he said.

According to the FDEA, food and drink exports from the UK amounted to £22.1 billion (€25.2 billion/$29 billion) in 2017, up 9.7 percent on 2016 when the figure was £20.2 billion (€23 billion/$26.5 billion).

Of these exports to the EU amounted to £13.3 billion (€15.1 billion/$17.5 billion), up 10.3 percent on the year before, while exports from the UK to outside of the EU were £8.8 billion (€10 billion/$11.6 billion) up 8.9 percent on 2016, said the FDEA.

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Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2.53 pm GMT

Opening the purse strings

Seafood companies in the UK are now eligible to apply for additional funding help to boost their exports, whereas before such funding was only available through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), said Steve Noblett, International Trade Advisor at the Department for International Trade (DIT) representing Yorkshire & Humber.

The extra funding is available now through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Nevertheless, companies should move fast to make the most of it with March 31, 2019 -- and the UK's exit of the European Union -- fast approaching, he said.

“Traditionally, in terms of exports, the seafood sector has had separate funding issues, whereby it is deemed to be funded already through the EU, and therefore ineligible to us,” said Noble. But now the DIT has “fought for funding” for the seafood sector and won the ability to offer assistance to businesses through the ERDF.

The support is available for all SMEs in the Leeds City Region, Sheffield City Region, and the Humber Region. Grants of a minimum £1,000 (€1,139/$1,313) will be available for new and existing exporters, match funded by the companies.

“So if you spend £4,000 (€4,554/$5,252) on exporting activities, we will pay you back £2,000 (€2,277/$2,626),” said Noble.

The grants, specifically aimed at helping businesses grow internationally, can be used to cover costs in relation to trade shows and exhibitions; or travel costs to target countries and accommodation, or for translation and internationalization of marketing materials, websites and social media.

However, they must be claimed within 6 months of offer, and a minimum of one job must be created per grant or project, said Noble. In addition, companies looking to take advantage of the funding should not hang about, he warned.

Project proposals should be submitted by the end of March 31, 2019 and the trip taken before the end of July.

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Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2.00 pm GMT

New name, new location, familiar issues

The annual UK Seafood Summit -- formerly known as the Humber Seafood Summit and organised by Seafish -- is moving location this year away from Grimsby and Cleethorpes, to the Forest Pines Hotel and Golf Resort in Broughton, North Lincolnshire.

Nevertheless, despite a new name and venue, the event will once again bring together a panel of experienced and respected speakers and delegates to discuss and debate the burning issues in the global seafood industry.

The theme for the 2018 event is "Seafood is the way forward", a nod to the new Seafish vision of a thriving UK seafood industry.

This year, it’s all about:

  • Brexit: Looking at the changing political, economic and regulatory landscape
  • The Consumer: A focus on consumer concerns, innovation and feeding the nation from a foodservice perspective
  • Trade: Sourcing sustainable seafood, how stable is supply and long term developments.

The event consistently draws interest from key players in the seafood industry including processors, distributors, foodservice and retail operators and it is open to all businesses and organisations with an interest in seafood.

As with previous years, the Seafood Fayre takes place the evening before the Summit showcasing local food producers while Seafish has also introduced an additional seminar on exports the day before the main event.

Keep checking back here for all the news and updates.

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