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Dutch, Belgian fish sector stay course notwithstanding shortage of Dover sole.

Dutch, Belgian Fish Sector Stay Course Notwithstanding Shortage of Dover Sole

The unique geography of Holland allows for fish processing plants to be placed not only on the coastline, but also up to 50 miles inland without sacrificing efficiency or quality control concerns. This is due to the reclamation of land which has left behind inland seas allowing direct access to inshore and deep sea fishing grounds.

Holland has a long history of sea fishing, and today's fish processing industry continues to keep alive the country's tradition as a major supplier of quality product to the international marketplace.

Besides having a highly skilled manufacturing sector, the little town of Urk boasts Europe's largest fish auction house. Catches from near and far -- including the United Kingdom, Denmark and northern Germany -- are delivered there for sale.

Over the past year supplies of raw materials have generally kept pace with demand, although EEC quotas have caused certain problems with Dover sole and plaice. In fact, the shortfall of same has not only resulted in price fluctuations, but has brought into focus the controversial issue of overglazing. Unanimous annoyance from processors has been expressed on this subject, particularly as far as the Italian and Spanish markets were concerned.

While 10% to 20% glazing is common practice, buyers from the above two countries were reportedly demanding 40% to 50% factors. Such levels are much too high. Indeed, they border on scandalous proportions. Every step should be taken to reduce these percentages to a respectable level, the trade agrees.

Having said that, new fish fields were opened last Oct. 1 for a six month period. This had the immediate effect of increasing supplies of raw materials and dramatically lowering prices, which may have tempered the glazing situation.

A review of some of the leading Dutch fish processing companies and suppliers follows.


Doing business for more than three decades, Diepvries Monnickendam BV (DIMO) has invested a great deal of money in developing a sophisticated processing plant on the west bank of the Markermeer. Specializing in flat fish varieties, DIMO posted another successful year in 1991 despite the shortage of certain raw materials. However, the recent opening of additional fishing grounds in the North Sea has eased the problem, ensuring ample supplies and leading to more realistic prices.

The company's trade is global in scope, with especially strong ties in Europe. In addition, many well known international retailers are supplied with private label products.

On the opposite east bank of the Markermeer is the small fishing port of Urk, home of the largest fish auction hall on the Continent. It has an annual turnover of 200 million guilders (62 million [pounds]). The auction rooms are surrounded by numerous fish processing plants.

Eiland Urk BV

Eiland Urk BV runs two factories. One, in Urk itself, is mainly engaged in the processing of Dover sole and plaice. The second plant is situated in the coastal town of Harlingen, some 50 miles north. Fish fingers and burgers, which are in high demand in countries in Eastern Europe, are among the items processed. Herring roe is packed for the Japanese market, with a production target of 40 tons a day.

Private label work is much in evidence at Eiland Urk. The company produces to strict customer specifications, matching everything from breadcrumb requirements (if applicable) to pack presentation.


Northseafood Holland BV is another very active Urk-based company -- particularly in the areas of natural and breaded plaice fillets, Dover sole, turbot and brill. Last year saw tremendous fluctuations in the price of size four Dover sole, which ranged from a peak of 5.50 guilders per kilo down to three guilders. The low end coincided with the October opening of a new North Sea fish field.

During 1990 Northseafood spent five million guilders on factory renovations and the installation of a new belt freezer and packaging line. Since then business has continued on a steep growth curve. Hence further expansion brought another fully automatic packaging line specifically designed to supply the fast growing market for family-size poly bags sizes of 300g, 400g and one kilo.

Northseafood's production is primarily for retail accounts, although plans are afoot to increase sales on the catering side. As is the case with many fish processors, private label is also proving to be a growth area.

Gebr. Hakvoort

Another outfit with its roots in Urk is Gebr. Hakvoort BV. Being positioned so close to the fish auction rooms, it is assured of quality buying options at all times.

Computerized production facilities permit strict grading of portion control lines including fillets, ready to cook items, crumbed products for frying, and whole frozen fish. Rising sales of breaded lines have been realized in the UK, while trade is developing nicely in the USA, northern Europe, Italy and Spain.


Based in the Rotterdam area, Sealect CV markets a variety of surimi products throughout Europe. Imported from plants in Japan and Malaysia, the line includes such offerings as filament sticks and a variety of molded "look-alike" items. Among the latter are pre-cooked breaded crab claws and shrimp-flavored fish shapes.

In Europe, surimi is still inclined to be perceived by many as a little up-market, thus having plenty of sales appeal in delicatessens and with airline meal caterers. It has also proved to be a flexible starter for both restaurant luncheons and special occasion meals prepared at home. As the blended seafood product is made chiefly of pollock, another selling point is surimi's low levels of cholesterol, fat and carbohydrates.

Pierre Hottlet

Across the border in Belgium one also finds a number of fish processing and trading organizations. Two involved in the latter function are Pierre Hottlet & Co. and Thalassa Seafoods NV/SA.

Hottlet has been a successful fish trading company for many years. Although founder Pierre Hottlet recently retired, sons Benoit and Olivier are on top of things. Besides carrying on the traditional family business, they are bolstering distribution services. Indeed, the equivalent of over US$ 1 million was invested to build a new office and coldstore complex at Kontich which officially opened this month.

The 5,000 square meter property has coldstore capacity of 500 metric tons. The modern facility offers additional safeguards to customers. For example, an on-site laboratory makes for easy checking of all incoming cargo. In addition, faster handling time is ensured and, very importantly, Hottlet is now in a position to further develop tropical seafood specialities.


Founded in 1986, Thalassa Seafoods NV/SA is a comparatively new player. However, since that time it has established business contacts around the globe for both sourcing raw materials and the processing of customer's orders.

Being involved in the total fish market, Thalassa has gained a lot of insight regarding trends. Hence it reports that black tiger prawns will continue to make steady gains in the European marketplace.

During 1991 the company consolidated sources of supply in the Persian Gulf, guaranteeing steady access to such species as grouper, snapper and denton. These warmwater fish are popular among consumers in the Mediterranean as well as those in countries with similar climates. The Gulf connection has considerably widened Thalassa's portfolio, enabling it to supply customers with fish from all parts of the world.

PHOTO : The new Eiland Urk factory at Harlingen cost 50 million guilders to build.

PHOTO : Benoit Hottlet of Pierre Hottlet & Co. is happy about the new premises in Kontich the company has moved into.
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Title Annotation:includes related article
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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