Peru's seafood industry is at a pivotal point in the industry’s history, as more and more companies turn their attention away from the industry’s cash cow – fishmeal and fish oil – to the high potential food fish sector.
“More companies are investing to develop the human consumption business,” Diana Guzman, commercial manager of Pesquera Diamante, told Undercurrent News. “Peru has a lot of species not developed, well-controlled with sustainable systems that are very appreciated and healthy.”
Exports of food fish products, including those from aquaculture and wild fishing, have increased 13% since 2008, according to statistics from Peru’s exporters association, ADEX.
Exports of anchovies and mackerel have risen the most considerably of all food fish categories, showing a collective increase in volume of 209% since 2008, according to ADEX.
This shift is particularly beneficial when it comes to anchovies. A recent study by the University of British Columbia shows Peruvian companies could make much more if they turned anchovies into food rather than fishmeal and oil.
“Anchovy accounts for upwards of 80% of Peruvian landings by weight, but it’s only responsible for 31% of the sector’s revenue,” said Villy Christensen, professor at the University of British Columbia fisheries center.
Hayduk, known as a prominent fishmeal and oil company, is aiming to see its Campomar brand become the top canned tuna brand in two years' time, surpassing the likes of prominent canned fish suppliers Fanny and Florida, which have long had hold on the market.
In general, canned seafood has shown promise in recent years, said Hayduk chief of marketing, Julio Cesar Villegas.
“In general terms, what you can say about the market for canned is that despite being a category that has many years – some might consider it as mature – is experiencing exciting growth…2012 versus 2011, it grew by 12%,” Villegas told Undercurrent.
“Currently, it is a category of $167 million and is expected to continue growing at growth rates of 5%.”
Barrier yet to break
But sources told Undercurrent there are some limits to the food fish industry's growth. Peru’s abundant anchovy resources -- the largest fishery in the world – has limited availability due to a government restrictions.
Vessels licensed to catch anchovies for indirect human consumption -- in other words, for fishmeal and oil -- are not allowed to also catch anchovies for human consumption. The result? Peru's major seafood companies only buy from the more fragmented artisanal fleet for direct human consumption anchovies. This limitation has come quite unpopular, multiple sources told Undercurrent.
“I think it is a common goal of all the IHC [indirect human consumption] producers to develop the anchovy for DHC [direct human consumption],” Guzman said.
Pesquera Diamante is already working to make anchovies a more prominent part of its lineup with its Frescomar brand, which won ADEX's innovation awards at Peru's Expoalimentaria in October.
In the meantime, the industry has managed to achieve strong growth in anchovies for human consumption. In fact, anchovies were the second highest volume species exported in 2012, having reached 22,125 metric tons.
Progress came despite government limitations, through hard work.
“We are working with the fishermen, very close, in order to improve the handling of the fish from the catch up to the discharge at the pier, in order to receive a good quality fish in our frozen and canned factories,” Guzman said. “This is hard work for us as well as for the fishermen, but we are improving each time more and more.”
Mackerel tops the charts in growth, total exports
Meanwhile, ADEX statistics show frozen mackerel without liver and roe achieved a phenomenal rise to prominence as exports went from zero in 2011 to become the highest volume export category of all, at 48,382 metric tons, in 2012.
The next fastest growing category is frozen fillets, which went from not being exported at all in 2010 to the beginnings of exports – at 98t – in 2011, to reach 5,488t exported in 2012.
In terms of aquaculture species, shrimp was the highest volume species in 2012, having reached 13,669t. Then comes scallops, at 5,770t; trout at 1,321t and tilapia at 192t.
Despite the fact that aquaculture species have yet to surpass wild-caught species in terms of volume exported, ADEX is expecting growth in the future to come mostly from aquaculture species. This year, for instance, ADEX expects aquaculture species exports to grow by between 21%-23%, with scallops and paiche leading the growth,
The increase has already begun. Aquaculture species in total grew 13% on average from 2008 to 2012; and the growth rate is quite pronounced when it comes to some species. Exports of paiche, for instance, grew 151% between 2008 and 2012, to 110t. ADEX also expects growth from tilapia, sole, gamitana and corvina.
As for the fishmeal and oil business is concerned, even that industry is not safe from steering more towards human consumption products as the technology on processing fish oil improves. Austral told Undercurrent it is seeing its percentage of fish oil sold to human consumption companies increase every year and aims to increase it due to the higher prices it can fetch.