Producers may focus on days such as Valentine’s Day and Christmas Eve that are traditionally times for eating bivalve molluscs to increase marketing opportunities, but they should undertake greater efforts to attract consumers in the future. Last February the Mussel Industry Council of North America launched an aggressive marketing campaign to convince people to eat mussels more often, not just on special occasions. The Council used the slogan “Discover Mussels” to educate consumers and chefs and to allay fears about dealing with live shellfish. Chefs are an important target market, because 70% of the mussels consumed in the USA and 60% in Canada are eaten in restaurants. A similar exercise has been undertaken in Spain by the mussel farming sector. A campaign was launched last December, which will be repeated in 2011, to increase domestic consumption and the presence of the bivalves on restaurant menus.
More mussels have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
The Mussel Regulating Council of Galicia filed a second lawsuit against a Galician company for fraudulent selling of cans of foreign mussels as if they were produced in Galicia. The canning company attributed to “human error” the presence of the foreign mussel (Perna spp.) in cans labeled as a product of Galicia.
According to a report by the Galician Mussel Regulatory Council, the Galician mussel sector had revenues of around EUR 400 million in 2010, but the sector is still suffering from the import of mussels, especially from the canning industry in Chile. Figures from PescaGalicia show that 96.8% of marine aquaculture production in Galicia is bivalves molluscs (mussels, clams, scallops and oysters) with a harvest of 215,681 tonnes in 2010 and a value of EUR 106.6 million at first sale, but the value represents only 63.68% of total aquaculture production because of the low price of molluscs, that, last year, were sold for an average price of EUR 0.49/kg. In the case of mussels, the average price in 2010 was EUR 0.41/kg, an increase of 3.69% compared with 2009, when mussels were trading on average at EUR 0.39/kg.
The establishment of and publicity concerned with the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) of mussels in Galicia have not yet had a positive effect on prices. And now mussels from France will have their own PDO, “Moules de bouchot de la Baie du Mont Saint Michel” for mussels farmed in “bouchots”, as published in the Official Journal of the European Union early in July. In the Bay of Mont Saint Michel in French Normandy, the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, accounts for 95% of production compared with 5% for the Mediterranean mussel, M. galloprovincialis.
In 2010 France imported 58 100 tonnes of mussels, mainly from the Netherlands, Spain and Chile. In the first quarter of this year, the amount decreased from 17,400 tonnes in 2010 to 14,700 tonnes this year. The Netherlands supplies 33% of the shared market. In the case of Italy, Spain accounts for 60% of the imports by that market, but it has also registered a decline in the first three months of 2011. The total import of mussels to Italy was 10,500 tonnes, with Spanish mussels decreasing from 7,900 tonnes to 6,400 tonnes, according to national statistics.
Chilean mussels from Patagonia
The Association of mussel farmers in Chile (AmiChile) recently launched a campaign to highlight the competitive advantages of the Chilean mussel (Mytilus chilensis) and to increase exports of seafood and aquaculture products. The focus of this campaign will be initially aimed at the Russian market, a country with more than 140 million people with steadily increasing consumption of seafood. In recent years, Chilean mussel exports to Russia increased from 547 tonnes from 2009 to 1 841 tonnes in 2010, securing 37% of the market, which shows the enormous potential for export growth in this attractive market. According to reports by Prochile, AmiChile expects to reach 50% of the Russian market in 2011, displacing its main competitors, mussels from New Zealand and China.
The initial step in this campaign has been to build a value-added brand for the sector and to create an identity for all Chilean mussels exported to international markets under the name “Patagonia Mussel”. This is the industry sector brand for mussel producers and “Seafood Chile,” is the generic brand of the seafood sector in Chile.
According to a Market Study by INFOSA, Namibia is becoming internationally recognised as an attractive supplier of top quality oysters, with considerable potential for growth. The cold but nutrient-rich waters of the Benguela Current off the coast of Namibia provide an ideal habitat for raising oysters. As there are no indigenous species of oyster spat has to be imported, largely from Chile. The main species used are the European oyster (Ostrea edulis) and the Pacific oyster (Crassostreas gigas) Almost all the oysters are exported, to countries such as China and Germany, but South Africa takes most of the export volume. Production in 2010 was predicted to reach 800 tonnes, with a value of EUR2.6m (NAD26,228,084). Marketing analysts recommend focusing on a regional brand to improve the image of the sector.
Scallops fraud is still a concern
Fraud is still a serious concern among members of the American seafood industry. Last November the American Scallop Association announced an “economic integrity pledge” among its members, and a system of self-policing, in an effort to step up measures to combat fraud through accurate product labeling. Mislabeling imports, such as labeling Japanese scallop imports as USA domestic production, is used fraudulently to obtain higher prices or substitute for lack of supply.
Scallops are a tempting target for fraud because they naturally absorb and retain large quantities of water and can be forced to retain excessive amounts, leading to inaccurate and illegal weights. This year prices for bigger shellfish have risen to USD 11 providing even more incentive for illegal activities. The prices are driven by a weaker dollar making American-caught scallops a bargain for European importers, and concerns in Asia about Japanese seafood as the Fukushima nuclear reactor crisis continues. Japan is the world largest scallop producer by far, producing a total of 565 600 tonnes in 2009, almost exclusively for the domestic market.
More scallops from Peru
Spain ranked as the top destination for exports of Peruvian mollusc with purchases of USD 27.2 million in the first quarter of the year, followed by China, France, USA and the Republic of Korea, reported the Peruvian Association of Exporters (ADEX).
Adex indicated that between January and March this year shellfish sales grew by 80% to total USD 136.5 million, representing 57% of total shipments of the non-traditional fishing sub-sector in the period, which reached USD 237.8 million. The value in the first quarter of 2011 is higher than in previous years, including in 2008, when the sum was USD 57.7 million.
In Spain, Europe’s second largest scallop market after France, imports the main supplier is surprisingly Italy. In the first quarter of 2011 Italy supplied 884 tonnes, a considerable decrease from the 1 958 tonnes imported by Spain from Italy in 2010. Peru is the major supplier to the EU with markets in both France, Spain and Italy.
New products from mollusc shells
The Andalusian Aquaculture Technology Centre (Ctaqua) and Sanasur Laboratories have collaborated to find new uses for the by-products of aquacultured species. One of these initiatives involves grinding up the shells of the oyster, Crassostrea gigas, to use as ingredients in cosmetic products. Mollusc shells were identified as an excellent raw material for use in cosmetics, thanks to the high content of calcium carbonate and mother-of-pearl, and the shells’ exfoliating and revitalising properties. Creams using oyster shell raw material will soon be available in pharmacies, and Sanasur is working on other products including depigmentation creams, exfoliating gel and glycerine soap. It can also be used as a dietary supplement for additional calcium. This project shows how innovation and research can contribute to increasing the profitability of resources and improving environmental sustainability.
Viet Nam is not just pangasius
The successful history of Viet Nam´s pangasius has allowed for the opportunity to introduce new species to EU market. According to VASEP, in the first two months of 2011, Viet Nam exported 4 250 tonnes of bivalve molluscs, worth USD 12.4 million to the EU, up 3% in volume and 3.7% in value compared to the same period in 2010. The EU is the most important importer in terms of value, accounting for 68.8% of total export, the equivalent of USD 7.5 million. Exports to EU member countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy were high in value, representing a large proportion of the total mollusc export from Viet Nam.
With several countries actively promoting the consumption of bivalve molluscs and the establishment of Protected Designation of Origins, demand for species such as mussels, oysters and scallops should grow beyond the special occasions when they are consumed at present.