A few months ago, the Irish Sea Fisheries Board, An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), announced there would be a radical overhaul of the country’s seafood industry aimed at helping it become more competitive in terms of exports, particularly in new markets.
The strategy dovetails with the Irish government’s Food Harvest 2020 program, which stresses that it’s within the reach of Ireland’s seafood industry to generate sales of €1 billion ($1.3 billion) by 2020 — up from its current level of €822 million ($1.1 billion) — and in doing so create 3,000 new jobs.
While there is considerable optimism about the opportunities overseas and Asia is earmarked as a lucrative export target, BIM believes there’s also plenty of scope to grow the home market, which comprises 4.7 million people and 1.47 million households.
“The €1 billion sales target includes growth in the domestic market. Currently, Irish exports are around the €500 million ($651.5 million) mark and we get sales of €320 million ($417 million) in the domestic market,” says BIM’s CEO Jason Whooley.
“Unfortunately, foodservice is struggling and that’s really because of where we are in terms of the economy, but retail seems to be holding steady.”
In fact, the retail seafood category enjoyed something of a renaissance last year, outperforming poultry, beef and pork with total sales up 5.2 percent last year, including a 7.6 percent increase in fresh fish and a 1.7 percent increase in frozen fish sales. The only sector that saw any decline was the ready-to-eat fish category, with sales dropping 5.5 percent.
Ireland’s per-capita consumption is now in the region of 17 kilograms (kg) and on an upward trajectory.