Seafood mix. Photo: Godaco
Italy is a large seafood market with the population of 60 million people. Despite improvements in aquaculture, the country still largely depends on imported seafood.
Demand exceesds domestic production
Italy’s fisheries value accounts only 0.1% of its total GDP due to its depleting fish stock and fragmented capture activities. The landing has been increasingly descending, so the country depends heavier on imports to fill the growing demand.
The country’s fishing sector is highly scattered along its 4,634 miles of coastline, due to a diverse fishing fleets operating both in the Adriatic and Mediterranean Sea. In 2009, the catch hit only 182,000 MT, down significantly from 207,200 MT in 2006.
Aquaculture in Italy can be divided into four different farming systems: extensive farming (inland), semi-extensive farming (inland), intensive farming (inland and offshore) and mussel culture (longlines) [FAO].
Farms are scattered throughout the Italian territory, mainly in the southern regions and in the Adriatic. The development of marine farming around the Mediterranean basin is due to the application of intensive production systems, particularly cages. The key-farmed species are trout, sea bass, and seabream. Rainbow trout represents more than 90% of the nation’s total inland culture production.
According to the latest API (Italian Fish Farmers Association) data, the aquaculture production hit 74,000 MT in 2009, worth US$675 million, up 2.3% against 2008.
The seafood processing and conservation business has been going downhill in the recent years because the industry only utilizes only a few species i.e. anchovy, sardine and mackerel. The tuna canning industry has much slopped down as many large companies have shifted to countries that have better raw material supply.
Consequently, Italy must import a large amount of tuna from overseas. In 2009, Italy imported 37,000 MT of tuna loins and 16,600 MT if frozen tuna.
Fish consumption per capita in Italy in 2010 reached 21kg, an increase of 1 kg against 2009 but was still lower than EU’s average level. Fresh fish consumption decreased by 6% while frozen seafood consumption decrease by 5%. Price is the main factor influencing the choice of the people.
Although Italian economy is experiencing a huge change due to euro zone crisis, their seafood import activities has bounced back after a period of stagnation. In 2010, seafood import hit 938,016 MT, worth US$5.2 billion, up 5.3%, mostly from 27 EU countries (59.2%). The key imported species include tuna, cod, salmon, mollusk and shrimp.
Viet Nam export more seafood
In recent five years, Italy has become a Viet Nam’s major seafood importer. In 2011, Italy was the sixth largest seafood importer of Viet Nam, accounting for 3 per cent of Viet Nam’s total export value, following US, Japan, Korean, German and China.
From 2006 to 2008, Viet Nam’s seafood export to Italy rose quickly at the annual rate of 18%. In 2008, it hit the record of US$156.2 million. The export decreased to US$113 million in 2009 due to impact of the financial turmoil. However, fast recovery was made in the next three years. In 2011, Italy’s import value reached the all time high US$182 million. It also recorded the highest import growth rate among EU countries.
In 2011, cephalopods, Pangasius, shrimp, sea fish and bivalve molluscs were the most common seafood commodities exported to Italian market.
Italy is Viet Nam’s third largest importer of squid and octopus, after South Korea and Japan. The country accounts for 66% of the EU’s cephalopod import from Viet Nam. Demand for cephalopods and bivalves is high in Italy because they constitute the main ingredients of the traditional spaghetti.
For decades, Viet Nam’s squid and octopus export to Italy has steadily increased. It hit the record US$71 million in 2008. After the decline in 2009, it recovered and rose to US$63.4 million, up 31.2% against 2009. In the first 10 months of 2011, export value reached US$ 68.5 million, up 37.6% year on year. In recent years, Pangasius fillet is the second most important aquatic item of Viet Nam exported to this market. In 2008, the import value reached a record of US$41 million. In 2009, this amount decreased but gradually recovered in 2010. In 2011, Italy’s Pangasius import value amounted to US$37 million, surpassing the value of 2010 (US$26.5 million). Although Italy consumes less Pangasius than other EU countries, this fish can offset the lack of white fish supply in domestic market such as sea bass and seabream. Moreover, the fish is acceptable among the middle class, including many immigrants. Demand for Pangasius fillet is expected to rise despite the eurozone crisis.
Frozen shrimp is the third largest seafood item exported to Italy. Though the export value is still low, the growth rate has been remarkable in the recent years. In 2011, Viet Nam's shrimp export value to Italy reached US$22 million, higher than the value of 2010 (US$15.1 million). Italy consumes mainly cheap small- sized shrimp. Medium-sized shrimp is less popular and used mostly in restaurants.
Italy also imports about US$15- 20 million worth of sea fish fillets. Among the various fishes imported, tuna is the most important.
Italy is taking measures to preserve and restore the depleting fishery stock in line with Common Fisheries Policy in Europe. The Government looks to strengthen the control of mesh sizes and fishing effort. Therefore, seafood import is a solution to balance the seafood supply and demand on the market.
However, the Italian buyers often pay less than their colleagues in Europe for seafood, especially Pangasius and some kinds of mollusks. Besides, the ordered volume is inconsiderable.
By Thai Phuong
Complied by HANG VAN