Minister Coveney’s agri-fisheries trade mission to China has resulted in a major positive development for Ireland’s seafood industry with boarfish – a small fish caught in large numbers off the Irish coast – catching the attention of key seafood buyers on the Chinese market.
Following a number of intensive meetings, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, accompanied by representatives from Bord Bia, BIM and eight seafood companies, have agreements in place with a number of seafood buyers to supply this lucrative market with commercial samples with a view to securing orders in the near future.
Minister Coveney explains the significance of this development; “In 2012, Ireland secured the largest quota for boarfish. At over 56,000 tonnes, it represents a 155% increase on last year’s quota. 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. BIM have been working to develop this product and following the positive discussions we have had on this mission, we can now look to develop this business and in doing so generate significant increased revenue and employment”.
As pioneers of this fishery, largely off the south coast of Ireland, Irish fishermen have partnered with scientists to collect robust biological information that will ensure careful management of this resource into the future.
Minister Coveney explained how the seafood agency is working on developing the boarfish market; “Over the past 18 months, BIM has carried out a variety of new product development trials on this new species and we believe that we can deliver a viable market opportunity to a number of markets including China and Africa. Over 12 tonnes of boarfish are being sent as a commercial trial to a seafood processor in Qingdao. This will give us a good insight from a Chinese perspective into what formats work best, whether its skinless fillets, headed & gutted, surimi type products, or simply whole for the Chinese domestic market”.
Accompanying the Minister on the trade mission is Irish seafood processor, Karl McHugh of Atlantic Dawn Ltd welcomed the announcement. “As pelagic processors, we are fully aware of the potential of this resource. The fact that we have the lion’s share of this carefully managed resource is a good news story. One just has to look at blue whiting as a case in point. In 2004, virtually no blue whiting was processed onshore. However by the end of this season, over 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. 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.
The Minister thanked BIM and Bord Bia for their work on this significant development for the seafood sector.