IRELAND’S TRADE MISSION to China has identified a “major opportunity” for developing the boarfish market, with key Chinese seafood buyers signing agreements for supply.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, along with representatives from Bord Bia, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and eight seafood companies, held a number of meetings with buyers China in connection with seafood trade.
The attention of the seafood buyers on the Chinese market has been described as a major positive development for Ireland’s seafood industry with boarfish – a small fish caught in large numbers off the Irish coast.
“In 2012, Ireland secured the largest quota for boarfish. At over 56,000 tonnes, it represents a 155 per cent increase on last year’s quota,” said Coveney. ” When you consider that access to raw material is a challenge the Irish fishing sector faces, this new species represents a real opportunity and a boost to Irish fishermen and processors… We can now look to develop this business and in doing so generate significant increased revenue and employment”.
The Minister explained that over the past 18 months, BIM had carried out a number of new product development trials on boarfish, and concluded that it was a viable market opportunity to a number of markets including China and Africa.
He said the development will give Irish suppliers a good insight what format works best from a Chinese market perspective – skinless fillets, headed and gutted, surimi type products or whole fish.
Irish seafood processor Karl McHugh of Atlantic Dawn Ltd, who accompanied the Minister on the mission, said that as pelagic (open sea) processors, they were “fully aware of the potential” of boarfish.
“The fact that we have the lion’s share of this carefully managed resource is a good news story,” he said.
McHugh gave the example of the blue whiting market, saying that – in 2004 – virtually no blue whiting was processed onshore but that by the end of the current season more than 80,000 tonnes of blue whiting will have been processed by plants in Killybegs.
“This represents two extra months of employment for many in the local community,” he explained. “If we can ‘fast-track’ boarfish through our learning’s on this trade mission, then we should look back in a few years and on this resource in a similar manner.”